By Journalist Ms. Jones
NEWBURGH – “So I say to you my friends, that even though we must face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream,” recited Reverend Dr. Dollyann Newkirk-Briggs as she gave the Litany of Unity from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech at the 50th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Monday, January 15. The event was held at the Cathedral at the House of Refuge International Ministries and was sponsored by the Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh & Vicinity.
“It’s one of the greatest things that I happen to be involved with since Dr. King died because he has done so many great things for us… When I think about it and look at it from whence I’ve come… from the colored bathrooms to the colored water fountains… and to the Civil Rights Act being passed, celebrating fifty years of him is outstanding… He made an impact in our lives,” said Reverend Dr. Nelson McAllister, president of the Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh & Vicinity.
Newly-elected City Councilman Jonathan Jacobson attended the celebration.
“It’s always inspiring to come to these on an annual basis… The work is never done… We’re all in this together because racism and prejudice, unfortunately, is still with us…I think that was the word that was here tonight, that we all have to… work together to try to make the dream of Martin Luther King a reality,” said Jacobson.
The celebration was emceed by Pastor Byron E. Williams, Sr. and featured the MLK, Jr. Celebration Choir. The Newburgh Performing Arts Academy danced to “Four Women” by singer and activist Nina Simone. The Newburgh Free Academy Boys Track Team was honored for ranking number one, three, and ten in the nation.
The Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and “We Shall Overcome” were sung by the congregation. Reverend Dr. Ronald Grant, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Hudson, New York, preached a message titled “History, Heritage, and Hope.”
“His [MLK’s] whole plight, his ministry, was… dealing with the history, trying to make us remember who we are… reminding us of our own heritage… because back in that day you heard everything from ‘Black is Beautiful’ to all the different movements… But, there was a greater movement trying to diminish who we really are… The grandchildren, if you don’t know the history, then they kind of frown on it… It’s hard to tell folks now about us using one particular water fountain, not the other. They weren’t born into the era. We couldn’t go to the bathroom. We had to use ‘For Blacks Only.’ We couldn’t stop when were going South to the restaurant. That’s history… If you don’t know the history, then you can’t know where you are going,” said Grant. “Let’s remember, folk walked… The voting, for instance, the water hose. I had a member in my church, she was on that march in Alabama. The water hose, the dogs, for voting rights. And now, on Election Day they go catch a sale at the supermarket somewhere instead of voting… They don’t know the history… Folk died that we might have a right. Exercise it.”