By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
Dozens of students, staff and members of the community gathered Monday at Southwest Virginia Community College’s Charles R. King Community Center to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
College President Dr. Mark Estepp said the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day luncheon at the college is a favorite tradition of his.
“We always enjoy this event,” Estepp said. “I look forward to it every year. We have a rich tradition of honoring important Americans here, and none are more important than Martin Luther King Jr. This day shows us how far we have come as a nation and where we need to go.”
Rev. James J. Palmer, pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church and owner of the Palmer Law Firm in Bluefield, served as the keynote speaker for the event. Palmer said Monday’s celebration showed how much America has changed since the civil rights movement.
“This is a very special time, a time we use not to celebrate a great African-American because that defines him too narrowly,” Palmer said. “Even to say he was a great American is too narrow a description. He is a great world leader who has reached out to humanity across the world. This is also a great day as we experience the inauguration of the 44th president. I cannot help but believe in the short span of time between April 4, 1968 and today we have come a long way, and yet, there is a long way to come. We should not let the length of the road we have yet to travel discourage us from how far we have already come.”
Palmer said he wanted to base his message for the day on Matthew 11:28-30, which reads: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Palmer said King embodied this verse and encouraged others to do the same.
“When I look at that passage it seems to me God is saying to us that he recognizes there is a plight, a burden, a difficulty under which humanity is burdened,” Palmer said. “He extends himself for the purpose of easing that burden. He recognizes then it is his role to be the lifter of the burden that has befallen others. Dr. King gave his life in the finest example of this, teaching that there is a burden on mankind that must be relieved. At some moment in his life, Dr. King made the determination that serving humanity was more important than serving his own gains. Dr. King believed it was his duty to bear burdens for others. The world still needs burden bearers. It still needs those who are willing to lift someone up from a deplorable life to a higher standard.”
Palmer said everyone should see himself or herself as a link in a chain that supports their fellow man.
“There are so many links in that chain of life that lifts us all a little higher,” Palmer said. “There are some links that are more prominent than others, but that doesn’t mean they are the most important. As we all know, any chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We must all be the link in the chain that lifts that neighbor, that classmate, or that co-worker. We must bear the burden together just as they did during that time when oppressed blacks and dutiful, sympathetic whites joined arms together because they knew there is no freedom if all of us are not free. We can lift each other. There is so much more to humanity than the thin facade of a layer of skin. We are all God’s children, made in his image. When someone is down, you must lift them up.”
As part of the ceremony, the college also awarded four scholarships. Recipients included senior nursing student Roseline Odhiambo, senior nursing student Kalea Sparks, senior nursing student Antonio Wright, and student Andrea Beatty who recently completed her career studies certificate in entrepreneurship and is currently enrolled in general studies. Beatty plans to transfer to Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky.
— Contact Kate Coil at firstname.lastname@example.org