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Hudson Valley Press

January 16th, 2013

NAACP chapter holds annual MLK celebration

Youths from the St. John AME Zion Church sing a choir selection at the Middletown Chapter of the NAACP’s “A Celebration of the Life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on Sunday.

MIDDLETOWN - "We forget Martin Luther King, Jr. died for a purpose; we owe his generation much more."

The packed church audience intently listened in as guest speaker Reverend Michael Williams uttered these words on Sunday night. The message was crystal clear and resonated throughout the entire three hour program.

For the seventh year, the Middletown chapter of the NAACP presented "A Celebration of the Life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Middletown. A non-denominational tribute, the event featured an array of religions, races, and age groups. Although attendees and presentations varied, the themes and purposes remained constant.

"Our purpose today is to keep the memory and spirit of Martin Luther King alive, particularly for the young people," said Wyletta Barbee, Vice President of the Middletown chapter of the NAACP. "We try to appeal to everyone as well as all topics; if King was alive today, he would have been particularly upset by bullying; we have a skit on that very topic."

In addition to the bullying and intolerance segment presented by Teen Experience, the program further included praise dancing, choir selections as well as remarks by several key religious and political dignitaries. Sean Patrick Maloney, the newly sworn in area congressman, incited applause several times after speaking about the iconic King and his lasting influence.

"Dr. King shows the power one man and a dream can have; his big contributions made reconciliation that was necessary for all to move forward as one community," said Maloney. "We still have a lot more work to do, and I want to make sure I’m part of making this country more free and united."

One man who has been living that very mantra is Reverend Michael Williams of the Greater Upper Room Apostolic Church, who served as the guest speaker at Sunday’s MLK event. The Middletown native immediately challenged his audience, asking them to look at themselves today in the year 2013.

Williams asked, "What is our responsibility to continue the work of MLK?" Within moments, he answered the rhetorical inquiry.

"We have a responsibility not only to the saving of men, but our communities," affirmed Williams. "It’s no good to just sit behind the pulpit. We need to be able to pull people out of their situations; we cannot do that by distancing ourselves from the problems of the world." He added, "We need to be talking about the human condition, not prosperity."

Alluding to the dire need of our youth to be more versed in their history as well as the struggles of their ancestors, Williams reminded those in attendance of the obligation all have to understand and continue the work and sacrifices of Dr. King, deeds that serve as a barometer of excellence.

"Dr. King put himself in the line of fire, something he did not have to do coming from an educated and church background. He could have gone into any field, but he chose to help the people," stressed Williams. "He could have had it easy, but he felt a real need to reach his community."

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