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Teach-ins keep King spirit alive
Pastor: Events help pass legacy on to children
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Sheila Dye Vernon (standing at right) leads a teach-in for area middle school students on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. (pictured between the windows) on Saturday at Mt. Zion AME Church on Fayette Street. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Kemya Menefee will be glad to see President Barack Obama sworn into his second four-year term on Jan. 21.

Obama is the nation’s first black president.

“Black people have come a long way” in recent decades, said Menefee, a student at Martinsville Middle School.

Menefee was among the teenagers who attended a “teach-in” at Mt. Zion AME Church in Martinsville on Saturday honoring the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who strived to achieve equality for all people, but especially blacks and the impoverished.

“It feels good” to have a national leader now who is black, Menefee said.

But, “you don’t have to be the president to be a leader,” Sheila Dye Vernon, who led the teach-in, told the teens. “You can do that in your own homes” at the least.

Vernon noted accomplishments of some other local black leaders, including Martinsville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joan Ziglar.

Not only is Ziglar the first black to hold that elected office, but also the first woman, Vernon pointed out.

Henry County and Martinsville churches hold the teach-ins annually around Jan. 21, a nationwide holiday honoring King. The theme of this year’s event was “Building Human Relationships to Become One Community.”

A community forum with the same theme will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the New College Institute uptown.

St. Paul High Street Baptist Church in Martinsville held a teach-in for adults, led by Michael Payne, a retired sergeant major in the Marines who now is a college placement counselor at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham.

Payne called King “a great communicator, a drum major of peace.”

“He set the standard (for living) by which we all should set our standards to,” added Clyde Foster, St. Paul High Street’s associate pastor.

The civil rights movement in the 1960s sometimes was violent. King, who was assassinated in 1968, promoted achieving rights through nonviolence.

At the adult teach-in, city resident Alexis Lee noted that Obama is working to try and prevent violence in America.

“What a coincidence,” she said, that he is to be sworn into his second term on King’s holiday.

Participants in the adult teach-in remembered ways in which King made life better for blacks. For instance, area resident Ethel Farrell recalled that King helped end segregation in schools, which made it possible for blacks to earn an education of the same quality to which whites were accustomed.

Foster said the teach-ins are important because they “enhance knowledge of who we (blacks) are, where we came from and where we are going” in society.

“It is important that we pass on our legacy to our children,” he said.

Christians should work together to achieve Kings’s dream of equality for all Americans because regardless of their skin color, they are part of one body, according to Foster.

“We’re all ... baptized in Christ Jesus,” he said.

Teach-ins also were held at Reach Out Apostolic Tabernacle, St. John Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, New Bethel Christian Church and the Smith River Baptist Association Center, a flyer showed.

A breakfast at Moral Hill Baptist Church, sponsored by the Tau Omicron Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, kicked off the teach-ins.


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