Annual MLK Celebration Draws Hundreds to Beacon

By Jennifer L. Warren

BEACON – To say the past seven months have not been easy for Barbara Baker-Baylor would be an extreme understatement. However, despite the physical hardships placed in her way, she has prevailed, learning a great deal about the true family she has at the Southern Dutchess Coalition Inc.
In June of 2016, Baker-Baylor, who has played a pivotal role in the the Coalition’s Annual Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration, received a harsh diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer; three months later, she fell and had to have hip surgery. Despite the physical, mental and emotional tolls she has endured, Baker-Baylor has continued to persevere, adjusting to her new role contributing to the Celebration’s lofty duties. Now the Executive Administrative Assistant, she has had to call on the help of her other Coalition members to “step up and come to the plate,” due to her health issues. Without any hesitation at all, those “gaps” were quickly filled, bringing a huge smile of appreciation to Baker-Baylor’s face that could be seen all day Monday at the popular, long-standing MLK Birthday Celebration, held at the Sprigfield Baptist Church in Beacon.
“We have a team second to none here at this Coalition that has been in operation for 39 years, said a proud Baker-Baylor, who pointed to the ongoing need for more new members, especially young adults. “Sharlene Stout has been so important  to our success, starting the Youth Choir, Reverend Ronald Perry is amazing, and Ron Dawkins, our Technical Director the same, and the list goes on; all of our church members and sponsors, congressmen and elected officials and musicians who come out every year make this the great event that it is.”
Evidence of all those diligent efforts could be seen by the sheer numbers that filled Springfield Baptist Church Monday morning. Hundreds came out to join in on the 4th Annual MLK Parade, an event envisioned by the late, local legend, Pete Seeger. Just prior to their departure down the streets in Beacon, they listened in to the words spoken by Congressman, Sean Patrick Maloney, who also took place in the march.
“We have to remember who we are and to fight together; there is no progress without struggle and anxiety” said Maloney. “Today, we have the same responsibility we did years ago; we have to keep the politicians accountable, in the same way Dr. King would want us to.”
Incited by Maloney’s words, Parade participants took the streets, holding signs of MLK, messages of peace and non-violence as well as other words aimed at unity and cooperation. Following the Parade, there were more speakers, inspiring musical numbers as well as the announcement of the 4th Annual MLK Community Essay Contest winners. Just prior to that announcement of the six winners, sentiments from an assortment of those fourth grade writing entries were relayed: “People who don’t use violence are truly courageous.” “MLK lit the fuse that started non-violence.” “Violence only makes things worse.” “Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend.” “MLK made the world a better place.”
The afternoon program continued the emphasis on our youth, featuring a “Talent Hour.” Entertainment included; a reading by 14 performers of King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech as well as dancing and singing routines. Adult numbers were further provided by Goldee Greene, Fred Martin, Lydia Adams Davis, Unspeakable Joy Mime, Inc., and Brandon Williams. The afternoon concluded with a musical ensemble, compliments of the 2017 Community King Parade Musicians. Regardles of the venue, each piece of the day centered upon the 2017 theme, “We’ve come this far by Faith,” the exact message embedded in Baker-Baylor’s recent journey as well as the entire Southern Dutchess Coalition team that she cherishes so dearly.
“This day is so important because Dr. King fought for us to have freedom and wanted us to come together as one, not be divided, so we are doing just that by marching and celebrating his legacy that is important to all people,” said Stout, also the Vice President of the Coalition and Parade organizer. “This year is particularly important because we continue to follow through with King’s Dream as well as the legacy of Pete Seeger and his dream.”
Many on hand Monday stood together in their belief that the same sentiments uttered by King nearly 54 years ago, need to resonate today, in some ways, more than ever.
“We must all have a voice, all work together, learn to sacrifice because the war is not over,” said David E. Elberle, President of the Southern Dutchess NAACP. “We must stand and resist what is wrong, stand up for what is right, because freedom comes at a price, and we must always act in a responsible manner for the good of all.”

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