Stirring tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Baldwin

BALDWIN — “Rise up and restore the dream,” was the theme at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Celebration Concert, hosted by the Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Committee on Sunday at the Baldwin High School gym.

Winner of the fifth- and sixth-grade Martin Luther King, Jr., essay competition, Bre’Indel Watkins, spoke about what King’s dream means to her.

“If people were separated by their skin color it could destroy families and friendships. Most families and friendships are blended by color. My friendships are not based on the color of our skin, but on the things we have in common. In my short lifetime it has been fascinating to see our different colors blend and move on in the time we presently live in. We must remember, it is not about the color of our skin, it is about loving and getting along with each other,” Watkins said in her speech.

The celebration kicked off with a free chicken dinner for attendees. Artist and author, Judy Morris, of Woodland Park, had works on display, which included drawings and paintings and portraits. She had a book signing of her children’s book, “Five Goats in a Truck.”

The concert program opened with an introduction by P.T. Jones-Salaam. Prayer solemnized the occasion, followed by everyone in the room singing to the stirring anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Everyone joined in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Matthew Byrd recited King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, with powerful passages such as, “We are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Essay winners of Baldwin Elementary students were announced, and each winner read their work, including Hudson Miller, kindergarten; Aubrey Jones, first and second grade; Leila Leonard, third and fourth grade; and Bre’Indel Watkins, fifth and sixth grade.

A free-will offering was taken to help cover costs and in benefit of the Martin Luther King Commemorative Committee.

The committee gives an opportunity for scholarships, to help students achieve their own dreams, said Martin Luther King Commemorative Committee Duane Roberts.

“Seniors at Baldwin should apply for the scholarship,” he said. “Every little bit helps. Little children, don’t forget, whatever dream you have you can achieve. You just have to work for it.”

Shawn Washington introduced Chris C. K. Kingdom Grier, a 1989 graduate of Baldwin High School and a native of Idlewild, and the Dynamic Praise Choir, of Holland. The choir sang numerous selections, from reflective worship to hand-clapping songs of jubilation.

“The dream King talked about wasn’t about him, it was always about you,” Grier spoke to the audience. “King was a conduit and it was a collective dream he spoke of — a dream to restore your present situation, to restore your past situation and your future situation.”

The Giant Award, presented each year to an outstanding member of the community, was presented to Faith Thomas-Jones. A native of Charles County, Md., after graduating college, Thomas-Jones moved to Baldwin and became a teacher. In her career she advanced to school administration. She also went back to school at Central Michigan University to obtain a masters in Language Arts.

“Remember, do your best and don’t let anyone knock you down. You can do anything you set your mind to,” said P. T. Jones-Salaam during the closing. Pastor Leroy Childress gave the closing prayer.

Event coordinator, Pastor Denise Suttles, said this is her 16th year participating in the event, but the King celebration has been going on since the 80s.

“Every year the program is different,” she said. “One year we even did a play. I hope we do that again sometime. It is important we keep Dr. King in the mind of the children. It is our responsibility to keep his legacy alive to the future generations.”