American dream may be missing point, speaker says

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — The Alpha Omega Stompers perform during the “I Have a Dream” youth luncheon sponsored by the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture Monday morning at the Natchez Convention Center.

NATCHEZ — There are two American dreams, but one of those is far nobler than the other.

That’s the message Natchez High School student E’Keria Williams brought to the 19th annual Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture Martin Luther King Jr. youth luncheon.

Williams said her idea of the American dream used to be fairly straightforward — graduate high school and college, get a high-paying job and a house in the best neighborhood, marry, have children and “have all my friends looking at me wishing they were me.”

Then, one day, a teacher gave her some reading material about King. That changed everything, she said

“I realized that his dream and my dream were different,” Williams said.

King’s dream, she said, was not self-centered, and rather than focusing only on individual achievement, it looked to future generations and had the aim of furthering them.

And that is why King’s dream is the true American dream — to be able to say, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last,” Williams said.

“Which (dream) would you choose?”

The luncheon’s program guide, Latoya Fleming, echoed Williams’ comments.

“The dream shouldn’t be just about self, but about helping other dreams come true as well,” she said.

The NAPAC luncheon serves to not only honor the memory of the slain civil rights leader, but also to showcase local youth talent. Monday’s program included singing, dancing, step troupes, skits, speeches, musical selections and poetry readings.

One student, 13-year-old Jaylen Russ, said he was inspired by King after a visit to a museum that gave him exposure to more of King’s speeches than what is arguably the most famous, the “I Have a Dream” speech.

“It is because of Dr. King that I have the opportunity to stand before you today,” Russ said.

“At 13, no, I have not been to the mountaintop, but I know it’s attainable.”

Morgantown Elementary student Jacquan Johnson, 10, said it’s always important to remember King’s work.

“He fought for our rights, and was a very special person,” Johnson said.

McLaurin Elementary School student Courtneana Beverly, 9, said King was a kind pastor who wanted to see the day when, “black and white kids could sit together.”

Beverly said a good way to honor King’s memory would be to make someone who is different from yourself feel welcome if they are new to the area.

Performers at the luncheon included Kaleab Robinson, Kirraney Gordon, Jordan Murray, a group from Frazier Primary School, Kaliyah Dunmore, Destiny Addae, the Prince Street Angel Choir, Kerrigan Winding, the Harvest Praise Team, Deanna Hayden, the McLaurin Steppers, Damira McGruder, Jaylin Gibson, Kennady Gray, the Gamma Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the 4-H Adams County Mod Squad and the Alpha and Omega Steppers.