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Annual banquet honors King's vision

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ECC President Gregory McLeod speaks during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Banquet on Saturday at the college’s Tarboro campus.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

TARBORO — Edgecombe Community College President Gregory McLeod was the keynote speaker at the 29th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Banquet on Saturday in the Mobley Atrium of the Fleming Building on the college’s Tarboro campus.

The atrium was filled to capacity as dignitaries and community members gathered to be entertained by a group called “The Hearts of Men” and to feast on food provided by Gardner’s Barbecue and Sara Lee Frozen Bakery, one of the main sponsors for the event. 

The theme of the event was based on a statement by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that “all life is interrelated.”

In his address, McLeod spoke about how he felt King would respond to the world as it is today.

“Having been born on Jan. 15, 1929, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have celebrated his 90th birthday this year if he had lived,” McLeod said. “I would like to think on one hand, he would be amazed and impressed with how far we have come as a society. After all, we witnessed and celebrated in 2008 the historic election of our country’s first black president, Barak Obama. This was something that many of perhaps dreamed of but were not sure we would ever see in our lifetime. Then, 10 years later, in 2018, on a much smaller scale, but perhaps interrelated, nonetheless, the hiring of this college’s first black president.”

McLeod went on to say he feels that King would be disappointed in some aspects of today’s society.

“On the hand, I think he would be shocked and dismayed at some of the issues we still face today — namely, the hateful and divisive rhetoric which is heard almost daily from our nation’s capital. Additionally, our country is still faced with systemic racial profiling, discrimination and prejudice. We have a disproportionate number of black men in jail and a disproportionate number of black children who are being suspended from school or who drop out altogether,” McLeod said.

McLeod urged his audience to keep the faith, have high expectations for themselves and others in terms of education, volunteer to help others who are less fortunate and show love to one another, regardless of race. 

“Last night in the grocery store, I saw an elderly white woman stop suddenly when she saw this young, black police officer come down the aisle. She approached him and said, ‘I want to hug you and thank you for your service and for keeping our community safe,’” McLeod said. “Imagine if we did things like that so often that we wouldn’t feel the need to say ‘a white woman hugged a black man’ or the need to say anything at all because we were so accustomed to seeing such positive visual expressions of love, support and encouragement.”

During Saturday’s event, Tynashia Whitaker, first-place winner of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest, and Ka’Najah Marshman, second-place winner of the contest, presented their speeches related to the theme of “all life is interrelated.” The winners of the annual poster contest also were announced.

The Joe W. Dickens Jr. Entrepreneur of the Year Award was presented to the Rev. Kelly R. Andrews at the event. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Citizenship Award was presented to Michael Angels Girls’ Club.

State Rep. Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe was also present to swear Jamilla Hawkins to the N.C. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission.

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