By James Beaty
McAlester resident Maybelle Patterson says there’s a reason she attends the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Ceremony every year.
“It’s because of Martin Luther King and his legacy,” Patterson said. “We have come so far, really, and it’s so wonderful to see everybody involved.”
Patterson joined others attending the commemorative ceremony held Friday at the Mount Triumph Baptist Church in McAlester.
Deacon Monica Trumlee Bailey served as more than featured speaker for the event. She also lifted her voice in song.
Standing at the podium, Bailey immediately addressed the theme of the ceremony: “Remembering the dream ... continuing the dream.” She asked the audience to speak those words after her.
She noted that “remembering the dream” means something happened worth remembering.
“Let us hold fast to the profession of our faith, without wavering,” she said.
Bailey is an ordained itinerant deacon with the African Methodist Episcopal Church under Presiding Prelate Bishop Samuel L. Green of the 12th Episcopal District.
Currently attending classes in Native American studies at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, she works with the education department at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Several classes from McAlester Public Schools attended the ceremony.
“It’s great to see all of the young faces this morning,” said the Rev. Anthony Washington, pastor of the Mount Triumph Baptist Church and emcee for the event.
“To me, this is a day we can come and share in a community event and learn how to live together as individuals. We can learn something about each other today” in McAlester, in Oklahoma and in the United States, he said.
Washington read a passage from Psalms 103: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, all that is within me, bless His holy name.”
Pittsburg County Holiday Commission Chairman Miller Newman introduced Bailey as the featured speaker.
During her presentation, she asked the audience members to repeat the words, “I was born to make a difference.”
“Can I hear you say it?” she asked. “You were born into something great.”
Bailey invited each audience member to turn to the person seated beside them and say, “If I were you, I would bless me, because there’s greatness inside of me.”
She also urged the audience to “write the dream” and gave them four “keys” to remember.
• “You need to know your heritage,” she said. “Heritage refers to where you come from.”
• “You must know your inheritance, what you were born into,” Bailey said.
• “We must focus on our identity,” she said.
• “Vision, we must have vision,” Bailey continued.
Bailey also told those attending the ceremony, “It’s not about the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog.”
She left them with another bit of information: “If you can dream it and believe it, you can achieve it,” she said.
During the service, Loise Washington led the Dr. Martin Luther King Unity Choir, with Cletis Lowe Jr. sitting in on piano. The choir sang the Bill Withers classic “Lean on Me” with Johnny Boyce taking the lead solo and Loise Washington leading those in the audience in a call and response on the latter verses. “I just might have a problem, that you’ll understand; we all need somebody to lean on,” audience members sang. Many clapped their hands as Washington urged them to join the choir in song.
On the next number, the choir performed “Safe in His Arms,” with Janette Moss taking the melodic lead solo.
During her presentation, Deacon Bailey stood at the podium and opened with her song and sangm “You are the source of my strength; you are the strength of my life: I lift my hands in total praise to you.”
Ebony Lawrence, introduced as the president of the Afro American Student Union at McAlester Public Schools, also addressed those present and spoke of King’s sacrifices.
“He died so I can live a live with my head held high,” she said.
The Rev. Washington closed the ceremony.
“We put this on so we can pull people together,” he said of the annual event.
“Maybe we can get to the point where we can live the dream every day.
“It’s about us coming together and being unified and showing the love of Christ in us to the world.”
The commemorative service is held prior to the MLK banquet, held Saturday night at the McAlester High School Cafeteria.
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com.