Celebrating Martin Luther King's dream in Lenoir

Jan. 22, 2013 @ 01:43 PM

The Rev. Charlie Rivens had a message to share during his speech at the annual celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., held in a recreational facility bearing the civil-rights icon’s name.

Rivens wondered, with the inauguration of President Barack Obama for his second term in office, whether we had reached the peak of King’s dream.

“Today, we celebrate the inauguration of the president of the United States, and even our president is a result of the civil-rights movement,” he said in a rousing speech. “Does that mean we’ve reached the plateau of the dream?”

If we suddenly woke from the dream, Rivens said, it would prove fatal for the nation for it to overlook the urgency of the moment. Crime, drugs and poverty are key issues not only in the black community but for all communities, and he issued a call for all people to come together to face those problems

Drawing from the famous “I Have a Dream” speech in which King said, “In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred,” Rivens said that for all people to be truly free, they couldn’t fall victim to blame, bitterness and hatred and instead embrace the spiritual values on which King based his philosophy.

“We must not become what we hate,” he said. “We must not become the vicimizer because we have been the victim. We as people, as Christians, must learn to move on. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plains of dignity and principle. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the magestical heights of being a physical force with a spiritual message.”

Earlier, about 100 people gathered downtown under a bright, clear sky in a crisp, soft wind to hear the Rev. Terry Hunt of The Life Center Church issue a fiery call for local African-Americans to get involved in local affairs. He decried the lack of African-Americans in elected office and in law enforcement in Caldwell County, but he said that can’t change until people decide themselves to take responsibility for their communities.

He noted that this year, just as in 2008, Obama wound up taking the oath of office twice — once Sunday in a private, official ceremony, and again Monday in the public event — so that the nation’s first African-American now is also only the second president to take the oath of office four times. Franklin Roosevelt was the first.

“We’re witnessing history all around us, but what are we doing here in Caldwell County to make a difference?” Hunt said.

The lack of African-Americans in high public positions here and the lack of African-American-owned businesses can be addressed if people raise their children to gain the education and qualifications needed to perform those tasks, he said.

“We need to challenge our children, to prepare them to become leaders here in Caldwell County,” he said. “... We’ve got to tell our children to stay in school. We’ve got to tell them to wait to get pregnant.”

Echoing the well-known chant from Obama’s first presidential campaign, Hunt said: “Can we have an African-American mayor? Yes we can. But here’s the deal: We’ve got to get involved.”