King luncheon pushes youth to stand apart

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NATCHEZ —On Monday afternoon local church groups and area residents packed the Natchez Convention Center, for the I Have a Dream, Youth Luncheon, to honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

The event, sponsored by the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture, included lunch, poetry readings, singing and a rousing speech.

NAPAC board member Flora Terrell said in the event’s 15-year history she never seen an audience larger than Monday’s.

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“This is phenomenal,” she said.

Terrell estimated between 900-1,000 people attended Monday’s celebration.

“This shows that there must be something important going on,” she said.

And for attendees something important was indeed going on.

James Washington attended Monday’s event along with 30 or so young members of the Greater St. James Baptist Church.

“He (King) stood for something,” he said. “That’s what we want to show these young people.”

Washington said he felt it was very important to educate a younger generation on King’s tremendous contribution to the Civil Rights movement.

“It’s a way to help keep our heritage alive,” he said.

Monday’s events were centered around educating and reiterating the relevance of King’s work to a younger generation.

Educator Montrell Greene gave an inspiring speech to the younger crowd at the luncheon.

At just 25, Greene was already working as a school principal, at 28; he was superintendent of the Cleveland School District.

“Yes you can,” he said to the audience. “You can do anything you set your mind to.”

Greene told the young audience how his own setting of goals and mentoring led him to success at a young age.

Greene told his young audience how he molded his success after King’s own aptitude for using those in his surroundings as mentors.

King adapted his own nonviolent approach after the teachings of Gandhi, Greene said.

Greene told his audience that by recognizing their own unique talents, setting personal goals and having mentors anything is possible.

“You can truly accomplish anything,” he said.

And Greene’s message appeared to have an impact on the young people.

Brittany Smith, 17, said Greene’s speech helped her to realize the importance of following her own ideals and thinking outside the box.

“You don’t need to follow the crowd,” she said. “You need to follow your mind.”

Smith also took time to recognize the reason for the gathering in the first place.

“This is important for our African American heritage,” she said. “It feels good to get together and participate in something like this.”