Rev. Dr. Edward T. Burton told an audience of over 150 people Monday there were no words to express his appreciation for what the people in Floyd have done “to bring us into the type of world we ought to be in….The people here should be proud and thankful and blessed.”
Burton, the speaker for the 2019 Martin Luther King Celebration at the high school, commended attendees for celebrating the birthday of King, whom he put in the same category as Presidents Washington and Lincoln. The 91-year-old, who had served as a pastor for 50 years, read scripture from the Book of Luke and talked about the opportunity he had to meet King and shake his hand. Many of his comments were punctuated by applause from the audience.
FCHS Coach Winfred Beale welcomed everyone to the event to honor the legacy of Dr. King. “I think this gives us all a great opportunity to grow and more importantly a great opportunity to learn and serve.” The audience joined Beale in reading a statement of purpose: “To celebrate the spirit and person of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; to learn the history of United States Civil Rights from our elders; to continue his work of reconciliation, understanding and respect between all races and ethnic peoples; and to strengthen our Floyd community through social interaction.”
Dr. Clinton Crump, pastor of Little River Missionary Baptist Church in Floyd, introduced the guest speaker, and his wife Jonelle led everyone in the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.
Kari Kovick and Edna Whittier, part of the ad hoc committee that organized the celebration, thanked Community Educational Resource Coalition (CERC) for permitting the celebration to operate under its umbrella. Other community businesses, groups and individuals supported the event as sponsors.
Kovick, a musician who also led the children and audience Monday in singing “This Little Light Of Mine”, said her family moved here about 20 years ago and she came to realize over time “that Floyd is made up of many different communities and many of these communities did not know each other.” She added that in the past few years in the nation, “we have witnessed a very different kind of connection or disconnection. A level of hatred and racism has reappeared that has shocked and dismayed some of us that thought our society had grown beyond this. But in response some individuals in this town have felt called to reach out across community boundaries to build a stronger and safer Floyd.”
Whittier and Kovick then talked about activities over the past years that have taken steps toward that goal – from community conversations to church fellowships. Last year a Martin Luther King Celebration was also held and drew 50 people. Organizers of this year’s event were pleased that the number of attendees had tripled. At each of the celebrations, everyone was invited to a social time afterward and encouraged to sit and talk with someone they didn’t know.
Burton said that in the Sixties, America “was like a wilderness.” He referred to the lynchings, the KKK and four girls in a church in Montgomery who had lost their lives, as well as others. “I marvel at how far we have come. We live in a different world.”
He recalled how he registered to vote on a blank piece of paper. “You had to memorize what was supposed to go on that paper.” At that time he also paid his poll tax. “We have a way to go,” he added, “but we ought to be thankful where we are now….Today we are able to gather all together, not as one race or another, but all of us as God’s people, created in the image of God.”
Burton remarked that King had a heritage and he was who he was because of that heritage. “Those of us who are here today are responsible to lead someone in the right direction….I want to be an example….My role model was my father….He didn’t have a whole lot of things other people had, but he had a job and he worked and supported his family….I stand higher than my father because I stand on his shoulders.”
The celebration, he noted, is not just a matter of celebrating King’s birthday. “We are left to carry on.”
This country “may have some faults,” he continued, “but I have some faults myself….God is forever moving, but the movement did not start with King, and it did not end with King.
“Now that King has gone on, there are those of us who are responsible for the carrying on to bring our nation to a newer and higher height.”