MLK Community Celebration Held

Branch officers being sworn in (l-r. Alvin Humes, Deborah Travis, Terry Goodson, Allen Palmer, Gunin Kiran, Michael Sanborn, and Marlin Reeves) (photo by Larry Middleton)
Branch officers being sworn in (l-r. Alvin Humes, Deborah Travis, Terry Goodson, Allen Palmer, Gunin Kiran, Michael Sanborn, and Marlin Reeves) (photo by Larry Middleton)

The Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP recently hosted the area’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration on January 20, 2019, at Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church in Christiansburg.

Attendees singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (photo by James C. Klagge)

The celebration opened with a rousing rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” followed by an invocation by Rev. Marlin Reeves.  Karen Jones, Political Action Chair, presented a branch Service Award to out-going President Rita Irvin.

Out-going president, Rita Irvin, honored with Branch Service Award (l-r. Karen Jones, Rita Irvin) (photo by Larry Middleton)
Tribute to King by the Youth Council (photo by James C. Klagge)
Tribute to King by the Youth Council (photo by James C. Klagge)

Then officers were installed for the 2019-2020 term: President: Deborah H. Travis; Vice President and Area 10 Chair: Alvin Humes; Secretary: Terry Goodson; Treasurer: Allen Palmer; and At-Large Executive Committee members: Gunin Kiran, Johnathan Williams, Rev. Marlin Reeves and Rev. Michael Sanborn.

Poetic Tribute to King by the Youth Council (photo by James C. Klagge)
Poetic Tribute to King by the Youth Council (photo by James C. Klagge)

The Youth Council honored Dr. King with a tribute to his life by Youth Council Vice President Miss Allison Foster, and a poetic tribute from Youth Council member Master Melvin Palmer.

The annual MRF NAACP Branch Community Service Awards in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Ms. Alexa Casey, of Blacksburg, and Ms. Alzeria Patricia Dillard, of Christiansburg.

Dr. Casey is a licensed clinical psychologist who focuses on veterans and people with disabilities.  She is a co-founder of 100+ Women Who Care NRV, which is an organization that provides money to local non-profits.  They have donated over $100,000 in the last couple years.  She also serves as the chair of NRV Indivisible, a political action group responsible for putting pressure on congress for a variety of equality and justice issues.

Casey was a key planner for the March for Our Lives event at the Lyric this past year.  She has also been involved with NRV Conversation, a local group committed to dialogue with people on both sides of the aisle to encourage discourse on controversial topics.  Dr. Casey has two teenaged children, and she enjoys photography, hiking, and graphic design.

Winners of the Martin Luther King Community Service Awards (l-r. Alexa Casey, Alzeria Dillard) (photo by Larry Middleton)
Winners of the Martin Luther King Community Service Awards (l-r. Alexa Casey, Alzeria Dillard) (photo by Larry Middleton)

Ms. Dillard is a woman of many talents.  She has lived in Christiansburg for 57 years and has worked diligently for numerous years providing services to this community in a variety of ways.  One of her greatest passions is sewing, which she has been doing since she was 14 years old.  Her current sewing project is making dresses for girls and women in Haiti to support Haiti Earthquake Relief and Recovery efforts.  So far, she has made over 20 dresses with donated fabric, and intends on making more until she finishes with all of the fabric given to her.  Early in 2018 WDBJ 7 recognized her for this outstanding work.  Ms. Dillard has been a business woman in Christiansburg for many years, running a beauty shop, a charter bus line, and a catering service.  She has four children, eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren, and she loves to sing and cook.

A special song was then performed by Gloria Dillard and Cecelia Carter in honor of Dr. King and the MLK Award recipients.

The Samuel H. Clark Memorial Scholarship Fund offers up to five scholarships of $1000 apiece to youth who extend their education beyond high school at a college or technical school.  An offering was taken and $1365 was raised for this fund.  To be eligible, 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.  During the offering the choir from Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church, led by pianist Michael Hicks, sang a rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” in which the repeated refrain of “Let freedom ring” was followed by the names of cities called out where justice was needed.

Keynote Speaker Brandy Faulkner (photo by Larry Middleton)
Keynote Speaker Brandy Faulkner (photo by Larry Middleton)

David B. Travis, Jr.  introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Brandy Faulkner, who is a Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Virginia Tech.  Beginning with King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” about “why we can’t wait,” Faulkner reflected on the sometimes-overwhelming challenges ahead of us.  She suggested we arm ourselves, as David did against Goliath, with five smooth stones: 1) Self-awareness.  We have to know who we are and where we came from.  2) Commitment. We have to be prepared for a life-long journey.  3) Sacrifice. We must love those we are fighting for.  4) Courage.  We must not leave the battlefield until the last child is accounted for.  5) Preparation.  We must be part of a purpose-driven organization working for justice.

Closing remarks by in-coming President Deborah Travis (photo by Larry Middleton)
Closing remarks by in-coming President Deborah Travis (photo by Larry Middleton)

The newly-elected President Deborah H. Travis shared the branch’s vision for the next year of a commitment to “Advocacy through Education and Activism.”

Attendees singing “We Shall Overcome” (photo by James C. Klagge)
Attendees singing “We Shall Overcome” (photo by James C. Klagge)

Following a benediction by Rev. Douglas Kanney, the celebration closed with all participants and attendees singing a moving rendition of “We Shall Overcome” as everyone held hands in unity.  A reception was then held in the Fellowship Hall.