When the debate was taking place about whether schools in West Virginia should be dismissed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Bishop Sam Moore told those at Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the historic St. James AME Church he supported having schools remain open on the newly declared state holiday.
“I thought the best way to understand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was to talk about his ideals and the things that motivated him,” said Moore, pastor of Full Gospel Assembly in Huntington. He said he thought schoolchildren should spend the day learning about King, what motivated him and how he went from being a local pastor in Montgomery, Ala., to a national leader and finally to being an international leader.
Moore lost that battle and Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day off from school for children throughout West Virginia and most of the rest of the United States. However, Moore told those at the service sponsored by the Boyd and Greenup County Chapter of the NAACP he believes the emphasis and value King put on education should still be taught to today’s young people.
“Dr. King was a highly educated man and he used his abilities to articulate his ideas to motivate us and inspire us,” Moore said. At a time when American children are falling behind children in other nations in education, and when African-American children in particular are not keeping up, it is time to re-emphasize the importance of education, he said.
King was a man for his time, Moore said. When Rosa Parks was too tired from a day at work to move from her seat on a bus in Montgomery, she inspired King to become the leader of the civil-rights movement first in Montgomery, then across the country and finally around the world, Moore said.
King was not the first one to organize protests against segregation in the South, Moore said. An earlier leader had tried to organize action, but he had an “abrasive” personality that turned people off. In contrast, King’s personality and superb speaking ability inspired people into action.
“Martin Luther King Jr. was the right man for his time,” Moore said. “He was in the right place and said the right things to unite people and change America. That is why we celebrate this day, and today’s young people need to know why Dr. King did what he did.”
The theme for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day was “Teamwork Make the Dream Work,” and Moore emphasized that theme in his talk before a large crowd in the sanctuary of the oldest black church in Ashland. King was a builder of strong teams, Moore said, and “if we are not working together, we are not moving forward. We are all in this together. If we work together we an accomplish so much more.”
Chuck Charles, Ashland’s new mayor, seized the opportunity to issue a challenge to those attending the service — one that if achieved will reap benefits for the community every day of the year.
Charles said the third Monday of each January not only is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but also the National Day of Service. “It is a day on, not a day off.”
Turning the phrase “make a difference” into MAD, Charles challenged those attending the service to get MAD by volunteering. By giving of his or her time to a worthwhile organization, each person can “make a difference” in the community.
The new mayor said organizations such as River Cities Harvest, Ashland Community Kitchen, CAReS and Clean Start are always in need of volunteers, as are teachers in classrooms throughout the city.
“I challenge you to let this day be a new beginning by getting MAD for Ashland and staying MAD throughout the year,” Charles said.
Later in the program, Ann Newman, president of the local NAACP branch, added to Charles’ list of worthy organizations in need of more volunteers. “The NAACP never has enough volunteers,” she said. “We could do so much more if more people were willing to help.”
The service was followed by a march down Carter Avenue, 12th Street and Winchester Avenue to First Presbyterian Church on Judd Plaza, where a free lunch was served by church members.
Jealone “Jerry” Martin, called one of the local NAACP’s “most active senior members,” was grand marshal for the march, riding in an automobile and avoiding chilly temperatures endured by other marchers. She is a member of New Hope Baptist Church.
Newman also presented certificates to teachers at Argillite Elementary School and in the Ashland Head Start program for their students’ participation in an art contest emphasizing the theme for the holiday.
JOHN CANNON can be reached at
(606) 326-2649 or firstname.lastname@example.org.