Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration

Audience (photo by James C. Klagge)

The Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP hosted the area’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration on January 19 at Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church in Christiansburg.

Gena Chandler-Smith (photo by Larry Middleton)

Following a welcome by Mistress of Ceremonies Doris Kane, and an invocation by Rev. Jefferson Jones, the celebration opened with a beautiful rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by Dr. Gena Chandler-Smith, accompanied by pianist Jonathan Holmes.

Tyler Graves (photo by Larry Middleton)

Youth Council treasurer Tyler Graves honored Dr. King by reciting the Langston Hughes poem “I, Too, am America.” Service awards were then presented to Youth past-President Zamora White (2017-2019) and Youth President Allison Foster (2019-2020). Miss White currently attends New River Community College. Miss Foster attends Christiansburg High School, and plans to major in nursing after she graduates.

Debbie Travis (l) and Allison Foster (photo by James C. Klagge)

As a musical tribute to Dr. King, Jason Diggs II sang “Abraham, Martin and John,” accompanied by Mr. Holmes.

Debbie Travis (l) and Martha Ann Stallings (photo by Larry Middleton)

The annual Branch Community Service Awards in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to Dr. Martha Ann Stallings, and Dr. Wornie Reed, both of Blacksburg.

Debbie Travis (l) and Wornie Reed (photo by Larry Middleton)

Dr. Stallings is a lifelong educator, beginning as a classroom teacher, and then working as a supervisor for staff development in Montgomery County Schools. During this time, she was also involved for five years with the county’s Diversity Forum. Later she worked as a training coordinator for Inclusive Practices at Virginia Tech. Stallings recently joined the New River Community College Education Board, and she is a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Association for women educators.

Roxie Palmer (photo by James C. Klagge)

Since 2014 Dr. Stallings has provided leadership as Chair of the Education Committee for the Dialogue on Race. In the community Stallings has volunteered for the Montgomery County Christmas Store since its very beginning, and with the “To Our House” homeless shelter for several years. She has been a deacon at Blacksburg Baptist Church for 8 years and currently serves as its Personnel Committee Chair. Martha and her husband Charlie have two children and three grandchildren.

Ushers (I-r) Tawanna Blassingame, Dr. Anita Franklin, Allen Palmer, Angela Sills and Sierrah Travis (photo by James C. Klagge)

Dr. Wornie Reed met Martin Luther King during the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott and heard him speak dozens of times thereafter. He marched with King and participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. After working for the US Census Bureau and IBM, Reed earned a PhD in Sociology and taught at several universities before coming to Virginia Tech in 2009, where he directs the Race and Social Policy Research Center. Reed has numerous publications, including a book on Racial Profiling. He has been an organizer of the local Dialogue on Race since its inception, as well as being a Board Member of the Virginia ACLU, and a subscribing Silver Life Member of the NAACP.

Rev. C. Coles Casey (photo by Larry Middleton)

Reed has won numerous awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the VT Black Graduate Students Organization. Wornie and his wife Mildred have two sons.

Following the presentations, Mrs. Roxie Palmer made a special appeal that attendees officially join the NAACP. Regular membership is $30 per year. Then Mr. Diggs and Mr. Holmes combined to perform James Fortune’s “I Believe.”

The branch’s Samuel H. Clark Memorial Scholarship Fund provides up to five scholarships of $1,000 apiece to youth who extend their education beyond high school at a college or technical school. To be eligible, a youth must be a member of the Youth Council, or be a child or grandchild of a branch member and live in this area. Dozens of local youth have been supported in this way through the years.

An offering was taken which raised $1,552 for this fund. While Mr. Holmes played piano and Mr. Diggs switched to drums, they were joined by Rev. Jones on soprano saxophone for improvisational offertory music.

Ms. Kane introduced the keynote speaker, Rev. C. Coles Casey, pastor of the First Baptist Church on Rock Road in Radford. Rev. Casey noted that there never was a time when the struggle was not an uphill journey, but we have to be in it to win it. While there are over 900 streets in the US names after Dr. King, street signs don’t feed the hungry—we do. King warned that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Instead of pointing a finger at others in their wrong-doing, I should point that finger at myself and say “It starts with me!”

The branch President Deborah H. Travis shared the branch’s vision for the next year, followed by a benediction by Rev. Ryan Schaeffer. A reception was then held in the Fellowship Hall.

The next General Body meeting of the local NAACP will be Sunday, February 16 at 3:30pm at Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church at 580 High Street in Christiansburg. (Note that this 3rd-Sunday meeting is an exception—we usually meet on the 4th Sunday of the month.). All are welcome!

You can learn more about the Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County NAACP Branch #7092 at mrfnaacp.org.

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