Residents honor work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Jenn Griffin – The Huntsville Item

HUNTSVILLE — More than a hundred people attended the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration on Monday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Mack Hines III, and Joreen Waddell sharing her experiences growing up as a youth in Huntsville.

Huntsville High School 2009 Homecoming Queen Jasmine Davis introduced Hines, who spoke of the future of King’s message.

“You are going to need more than a blueprint to be successful in today’s society,” he said. “You’re going to need a blueprint, footprint and imprint to get to where you want to be.”

Hines said there are two types of people — those who face reality, and those who fake reality.

“Facers search themselves to find their values and morals and strengths,” he said. “Fakers refuse to value anything and allow other people’s morals to become their views and feelings.

“Being yourself takes time, dedication and patience. But if it is not done, life will not be easy for you,” he continued. “You must have a 3-D vision. You must be a defined, developed and devoted human being.”

Hines went on to address the power of one’s mind in keeping that vision positive and strong, and spoke of the importance of giving back to one’s community through service.

“Your mind is the most powerful thing you have,” Hines said. “Only you can allow positive or negative thoughts into it.

“You must give back through service, because service is the rent you pay for living,” he added. “Significance is the payment you get for giving.

“Dr. Martin Luther King and others gave of themselves to you. They accepted handouts so that you could get a hand up.”

He then went on to encourage attendees to make to most of the obstacles they face while attempting to reach their goals.

“Turn every obstacle into an obsession…and block anybody who tries to stop you,” Hines said. “And if you fall while blocking, make sure that you land on your back, because if you land on your back, you can look up.

“If you can look up, you can get up.”

When asked about his role as keynote speaker, Hines expressed much gratitude for the opportunity.

“It’s always phenomenal to get together to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said. “I’m always delighted to speak on any topic related to African-American children.”

Waddell, a Huntsville High School nurse and former HAY You (Huntsville Action for You) member, shared her experiences growing up as a youth in Huntsville during the Civil Rights Movement and HAY You’s efforts to bring about change in the community.

Proclaiming herself “not a spotlight-seeker,” Waddell participated in the HAY You program because the community had asked her to do so.

As a self-proclaimed curious and fearless child, Waddell recalled pausing on her way home from school in front of the Walker County Courthouse for a drink of water from a fountain designated “Whites Only.”

She later saw change in Huntsville, with African-Americans being able to dine in restaurants like The Texan and The Raven and to work in stores like Brookshire Bros.

She was one of 12 students who was integrated in to Huntsville High School.

Waddell’s high school counselor told her that she was not college material, yet Waddell obtained her college degree and has been a member of the Huntsville High School staff for 19 years.

“I share my experiences in my class,” Waddell said. “Children don’t have any idea what’s gone on in history regarding integration. They don’t know how African-Americans have gotten where they are now.”

When asked what she felt was most important regarding civil rights now, Waddell said, “The prominent issue to me is educating our children. I feel that if we start with respect and self-discipline everything else will fall into place.”

Monday’s program began with the posting of the colors by the Greater Zion Drill Team, followed by the lighting of the candle by John Escobedo, president of Latin American United Citizens.

Student Kylie Smith said, “I liked it when they lit the candle because it reminded me of Martin Luther King Jr.”

Another student in attendance, Roshanda Brown, enjoyed 2009 Huntsville Superstar Winner Steven Lee’s rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

“We don’t have that many children involved in presenting inspirational songs,” she said, “and his performance was nice.”

Brown said the event “was put together very well,” and “a nice presentation.”

The program’s theme was “Life’s Blueprint for Our Children,” and spotlighted the past, present and future of that blueprint through the speakers and performers.

During the program, participants read from King’s “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint” speech, which he’d given six months before his assassination on Oct. 26, 1967.

They also read President Obama’s in-school address to students, presented during a nationwide address on Sept. 8, 2009.

Sarah Maddux, who read from Dr. King’s speech, focused on the past and how it is the basis for a solid blueprint for one’s life.

“Number one in your life’s blueprint should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness,” Maddux said. “Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.”

The second point of King’s speech, Maddux said, regarded determination needed to achieve excellence.

“In your life’s blueprint you must have the basic principle, the determination, to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor,” she said. “You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.”

Huntsville High School students Marily Varela and Jordan Moten spotlighted the present by reading from Obama’s student address.

“I could learn different things about the history,” student Amanda Bryant said after the program. “Some stuff we don’t learn in school, we can learn here.”

Several students and educators were in attendance at Monday’s celebration, each voicing their own thoughts about what the event meant to them.

Student Nia Parker particularly favored Hines’ speech, calling it a “great message for young kids.”

“He teaches kids that in order to make a footprint, you have to stay in school,” she said.

“(Hines’) address was so full,” Chris Tyson, ninth-grade counselor at Huntsville High School, said. “It was inspiring. (Hines’) message was for children (but) he was talking to me, as well.

“It was monumental. It was provocative. I concur with his message,” he continued. “You have to have others help you carry through. It’s a privilege to be here.

“I will be sharing some of Dr. Hines’ thoughts with my students.”

Nicole Minor, a student at Lone Star College, agreed with both Parker and Tyson about the importance of Hines’ address.

“I liked Dr. Hines,” she said. “He gave me inspirational things to live by.”

Also performing at the program was Dr. Gary Hood, who sang the popular “The Impossible Dream,” in honor of Dr. King.

“Our goal was to focus on children and bring them information about this community,” program chair Elaine Smith said, “and how this man’s legacy is worthy.”