“Inspired by the Dream: It Starts with me; Building a Beloved Community”
The Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP held its community celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024 at the Church on Main in Blacksburg.
Member-at-large, Dr. Crasha Townsend welcomed everyone, and the invocation was delivered by church pastor, Tommy McDearis. Next, Dr. Cheryl Burrell Graves shared poet Richard Blanco’s work, “One Today,” a poem recited at Barack Obama’s 2013 Inauguration. Music was provided by pianist Daniel Taylor and the Church on Main choir who sang “Oh How Good It Is” and “He Never Failed Me Yet” with the solo provided by Zach Dulaney. Dr. King’s favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace,” was sung by Dr. Deana Katey. The audience then joyously sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” also known as The Negro National Anthem.
The Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP 2024 Community Service Awards were bestowed on Michael Hickman of Pulaski and John Sills of Blacksburg. Hickman’s untiring community contributions include his work with the Calfee Community and Cultural Center and his 42 years with Pulaski County Schools. Hickman has been instrumental in bringing forth the revitalization, and awareness of the Calfee Community and Cultural Center (CCCC) where he serves as the President and on the Board of Directors.
Sills was recognized for his lifelong commitment to the betterment of others and the Kairos Prison Ministry Program at the Pocahontas State Correctional Center where he visited inmates and provided support and information to increase their positive outlook on life. Sills also volunteers with Meals On Wheels.
Branch president Deborah Travis and branch secretary Shirley Akers presented Silver Life Membership Awards to Joan Grayson, Randolph Grayson, Ann Shawhan, and Larry Bechtel. A fully paid Life Membership of $750 can be remitted in increments over 10 years or as a lump sum.
Tyler Graves was recognized for her three-year service as NAACP Youth Council president. She and brothers Robert and Richard McCrae were 2023 recipients of the Samuel H. Clark Memorial Scholarship in honor of Mr. Clark who worked tirelessly for equal justice and civil rights and who served as past president of the local NAACP branch. The audience donated $1,592.77 for the scholarship fund.
Townsend introduced the keynote speaker, Tameka Paige, Community Relations Specialist in the City of Roanoke’s Sheriff’s Department. Paige spoke eloquently about the importance of examining oneself with the goal of creating a beloved community. She emphasized the importance of both empathy and compassion and related both to Dr. King’s work. She admonished it is incumbent upon us all to recognize and address hate in our communities and to work toward positively addressing community needs. Ms. Paige warned of the dangers of complacency and urged the audience to look inward for redemption and atonement. She went on to emphasize the need for a strong commitment to creating a beloved community and reminded everyone to take steps to know and love one’s neighbors. Love is not disposable; we must all live the meaning.
Travis made closing remarks with a quote from Dr. King, “Rise up tonight with greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us more on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make American what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.” The program ended with everyone singing, “We Shall Overcome,” a gospel song associated with the civil rights movement. Guests were then invited downstairs for refreshments and further discussion.
Donations to the Samuel H. Clark Scholarship Fund can be made at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/mrf-naacp-shcs.
Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP