GALLIPOLIS — Area residents and visitors gathered at Paint Creek Baptist Church Monday afternoon to remember the lessons of American Civil Rights Movement leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of an annual tribute held by a coalition of the Southeastern Ohio Branch of the NAACP, University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College and RSVP of the Ohio Valley.
Branch President Mabel Tanner served as the event’s mistress of ceremonies. Sabrina Hurt served as pianist. The invocation was led by Rev. Dr. D.C. Carter of the First Baptist Church of Burlington. Attending youth led the Pledge of Allegiance.
The congregation joined voices for “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Branch First Vice President Kyle Gilliland welcomed visitors to the event. Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin was invited to share remarks and then the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College President Ryan Smith. Both noted the importance of supporting community and unification, regardless of one’s race or creed.
Elma Johnson recognized area dignitaries. After, the assembled sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Event Keynote Speaker Ella Coleman was introduced by friend and colleague Dr. Robert Lawson.
According to a news release previously obtained by Ohio Valley Publishing, “Coleman’s journalism experience began as a writer and editor for various newspapers and magazines. She entered broadcasting as a media producer for numerous radio and TV stations and organization. She founded the award-winning PURPOSE Magazine, an inspirational and motivational monthly newsstand publication. She serves on the board of directors for the Columbus NAACP, Purpose For Life and Promisedland Orphanage, among others. Her honors include: the Dr. MLK , Jr. Governor’s Award, the highest of its kind in Ohio supporters say; the Eldon Ward Minority Business Award; the Blue Chip Award for Excellence in Communication; the United Negro College Fund’s Distinguished Leadership Award and a Long Street Bridge Cultural Wall honoree in Columbus.”
Coleman read her poem “Beyond” out of her book “Poetic Overflow” to the assembled. Coleman’s poem discussed the importance of examining principles, compassion, thoughts and seeking revelations beyond one’s understanding of life.
“What is required of us is to go beyond,” said Coleman. “Dr. Martin Luther King went beyond. He went beyond what was regular. He went beyond what was acceptable. Beyond what was popular into what was right. Rosa Parks said, ‘It’s always the right time to do the right thing.’ No matter what your situation, you can always do what’s right. There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. Today, that’s what I want us to think about as we continue to celebrate and carry this on into the year.”
“We have to decide and make the decision to go beyond,” said Coleman. “There are a few people that I know of that went beyond in history and what they did is still affecting us today. They changed the course of events for the better. That is what God wants us to do.”
“…I can’t ignore that there are many who are still being shot down for no reason,” said Coleman. “We have churches being shot and we have public places being shot into. What would Dr. Martin Luther King do?… What would he think about what’s going on. I personally think we need to revisit his six principles of nonviolence. He told us how to deal with grievances. That’s why we celebrate him because he showed us how to do it without being violent. Violence is not the way to get a point across. It’s not the way to make a change.”
Coleman challenged the assembled youth to go “beyond” and to make a difference in the world and to remember the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement.
Susan Rogers of RSVP of the Ohio Valley presented Martin Luther King Junior Day Essay Contest winners before the assembled shared the event’s closing song, “God Bless America.”
Paint Creek Baptist Church’s Rev. Christian Scott led closing remarks and prayer.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.