NAACP MLK Celebration

The NAACP Youth Council (photo courtesy of Larry Middleton)
The NAACP Youth Council (photo courtesy of Larry Middleton)

The Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP in conjunction with the Pulaski County Branch of the NAACP hosted the area’s 2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration on January 14th at Asbury United Methodist Church in Christiansburg.

Once the sanctuary was filled, extra chairs were placed in the aisles and the narthex. Some 150 members and friends of the branches attended.

Leila Haley (L) and Allison Foster (photo courtesy of Larry Middleton)
Leila Haley (L) and Allison Foster (photo courtesy of Larry Middleton)

After greetings and an opening prayer by Rev. Kathy Carpenter of Asbury UMC, Miss Allison Foster of the NAACP Youth Council read a poem in honor of Dr. King, and Miss Leila Haley of the Youth Council read a poem, “Two Hands,” urging us to action on the pattern of Dr. King. Following this, Miss Haley was joined by four other members of the Youth Council to perform a spiritual dance tribute.

Secretary Debbie Travis (photo courtesy of Larry Middleton)
Secretary Debbie Travis (photo courtesy of Larry Middleton)

The local NAACP Branch awarded two MLK Community Service awards at the celebration. They were introduced by branch secretary Deborah H. Travis.

Rhonda Rogers (L) and Alan Johnson, winners of the MLK Community Service Awards (photo courtesy of James C. Klagge)
Rhonda Rogers (L) and Alan Johnson, winners of the MLK Community Service Awards (photo courtesy of James C. Klagge)

Mrs. Rhonda Rogers of Blacksburg received the award for her leadership in diversity education at both Virginia Tech and in the community. Mrs. Rogers was the first African-American to hold an administrative position in the Division of Student Affairs at Virginia Tech, serving as a role model for many. She won the Virginia Tech’s President’s Award of Excellence for her work as an administrator, and the Virginia Tech Student Affairs Heroine Award. As a member of Asbury UMC, Mrs. Rogers is the lay-leader, sings in the choir, and volunteers at the local juvenile detention center. Mrs. Rogers is married to Phil Rogers. They have two children and three grandchildren.

Mr. Alan Johnson of Christiansburg also received the MLK Community Service Award for his many community service roles. Mr. Johnson is retired from Verizon, where he worked for over 30 years and served as a union representative. He has also worked for the Christiansburg Recreation Department for 46 years, and is well-known for his refereeing and work with youth. Mr. Johnson is known locally as a musician, performing for the Asbury UMC choir, for NAACP events, and for community events. As a member of Asbury UMC, Mr. Johnson has been chair of the Administrative Council, the Finance Committee, and he has led the church’s annual Christmas caroling at local hospitals and nursing homes. He is married to Freda Johnson. They have two children and a new grandson.

Rita Irvin, Branch President (R), with members of the Youth Council (photo courtesy of James C. Klagge)
Rita Irvin, Branch President (R), with members of the Youth Council (photo courtesy of James C. Klagge)

A collection was taken for the branch’s Samuel H. Clarke Memorial Scholarships, awarded to graduating seniors going on to further their education. The collection amounted to nearly $1000. The branch awards up to five scholarships each year, and beginning this year the scholarships will be worth $1000. The current recipient of the scholarship is Sterling Sims, who attends Lincoln University. Applications for next year’s scholarship are available from the branch.

Joseph Sheffey, invited speaker (photo courtesy of James C. Klagge)
Joseph Sheffey, invited speaker (photo courtesy of James C. Klagge)

The keynote address was given by Mr. Joseph Sheffey. Mr. Sheffey recently retired from 36 years working as an administrator at New River Community College, and 28 years as a member of the Pulaski Board of Supervisors, serving 20 of those years as its chairperson. He has received numerous awards for his dedication to community service. He called himself a statesman rather than a politician because he listened to citizens and did not make campaign promises.

Mistress of Ceremonies Shirley Brown (L) thanks the speaker, Joe Sheffey (photo courtesy of Larry Middleton)
Mistress of Ceremonies Shirley Brown (L) thanks the speaker, Joe Sheffey (photo courtesy of Larry Middleton)

Mr. Sheffey spoke on the subject “Dr. King, we still have your dream.” After summarizing several high points in King’s life and work, Sheffey emphasized the importance of embracing a culture of diversity today. He closed by citing the eloquent words of several recent presidents, both Republican and Democrat, in times of national tragedy, and reminded us of the important role of leaders in bringing people together.

Glen Holmes, keyboardist (foreground) and attendees singing “We Shall Overcome.” (photo courtesy of James C. Klagge)
Glen Holmes, keyboardist (foreground) and attendees singing “We Shall Overcome.” (photo courtesy of James C. Klagge)

After a benediction by Rev. Linda Dickerson of Northside Presbyterian Church, the celebration closed with all participants and attendees singing a moving rendition of “We Shall Overcome” as everyone held hands in unity.

The Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County branch of the NAACP holds its regular monthly meetings on the 4th Sunday of the month, starting at 3:30pm. The January 28th meeting will be held at Asbury United Methodist Church, 500 Stuart Street in Christiansburg. All are welcome.