Kitsap keeps the dream alive on MLK Day

Kitsap County’s 12th annual official recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday sought to commemorate the late civil right’s leader, while stressing that the battle King began is hardly over.

“Martin Luther King was a man of tremendous courage and awe-inspiring vision,” said Bremerton NAACP President Ray Rogers. “He is the most important freedom fighter of my lifetime. I read his sermons and I get goosebumps.

“But we have become complacent,” Rogers said. “We now need to be challenged to do more with our lives in order to help others. We need to help our kids be the best they can be. A lot of our kids are not doing well on the WASL. We need to help them graduate on time so they can have a better chance at life.”

This matter was immediately addressed by the event’s keynote speaker, Rosalund Jenkins, executive director for the Governor’s Commission on African American Affairs.

Jenkins said Gov. Christine Gregoire will propose allocating funds to provide individual instructional assistance for students who did not pass the WASL on the first try.

“You cannot change their performance by getting rid of the yardstick that tells whether they succeed or fail,” she said.

Many speakers touched upon the theme of chaos, community and complacency. In modern times social conditions are not as chaotic as in King’s day, they said, so people don’t feel the overwhelming need for change.

“When we don’t address the chaos in the community, we cannot have order,” said Rev. Shermella Garrett, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. “We react to things, but sometimes we need to be ahead of them. If Dr. King were alive today, he would not be in accord with us. We have become complacent. Back then, it was the chaos that brought it together.”

“People like us are coming together to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy,” Jenkins said. “Often there is an oversimplification of his life and the history we look back on, as we seek to remember and honor him. The distance of history, the pressing down of political correctness and the desire to distance ourselves from ugly memories all kick in.”

Along with rote repetition of the message, Jenkins said there is a typical King tribute speech, given in thousands of places for many years. After a series of cliches (“We come to honor his dream and his legacy,” “We may not see the realization of his dream in our lifetime,” “We must stay the course and maintain pursuit of the dream,” etc.) nothing really changes.

“Everyone nods in agreement and goes home,” Jenkins said. “Sometimes feeling uplifted, sometimes not. Sometimes feeling unsure how to act on the problems we know still exist — racism, poverty, apathy and economic injustice.”

All the speakers preached action in order to balance complacency.  

“We need to take Dr. King’s dream out of the folder that is labeled ‘deferment,’” said Rev. Arthur B. Carter, a visiting pastor from Kansas City, Mo. “We need to ask what we can do to help others, in order to help his dream come to pass. At last, we will be able to say that we did more than talk, that we put our hand to the plow and did the work that was needed to be done.”

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