Celebration keeps civil rights icon’s legacy alive
WYE MILLS — It was a birthday party, worship service and homecoming all rolled into one. But mostly it was a celebration of the work, ministry and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Retired math teacher Madelyn Hollis continued her mission of keeping the civil rights leader’s memory and legacy alive with a public celebration. This year, about 175 people attended the celebration that began at noon Jan. 16 at Chesapeake College’s Todd Performing Arts Center in Wye Mills.
“The Dreamer’s Dream Must Never Die” was the theme of the event that featured song, stories and dance from local performers and worship leaders, many of whom were taught by Hollis during her 33-year teaching career.
Hollis, 89, was part of the vanguard of black teachers who helped integrate Queen Anne’s County schools in 1965-1966, beginning her career in the county at the all-black Kennard High School, and continuing at the then-new consolidated Queen Anne’s County High School.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday became a federal holiday in 1986, and two years later, Hollis planned the first of 24 non-consecutive celebrations to honor King’s achievements and inspiration on that day.
The celebration committee raises funds and awards textbook scholarships. About 150 patrons were listed in the program and two college students who received scholarships thanked the committee and encouraged the audience to give to the fund.
Local pastors took part in the celebration, and the master of ceremonies, Rev. Clarence Rochester, has Queen Anne’s County roots, Hollis said. Rochester introduced each performer and group by encouraging the audience to “show them some love.” Throughout the celebration, he quoted some of King’s most famous writings and speeches.
The audience enthusiastically clapped and joined in the singing, harmonizing as they sang well-known praise songs and traditional spirituals.
People of all ages attended, and children who ordinarily would have been in school took part in Monday’s celebration as performers and audience members.
As the audience gathered and found their seats, the New Life Methodist Men from Centreville and the well-known Burke Family Singers performed gospel favorites.
The celebration officially began with what has been called the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice.” Rev. Clarence Wayman’s invocation asked that the congregation be filled with joy during the celebration.
Praise dances were performed by 10-year-old Ke’myia Camper and three sisters who called their group Anchored Prayz from Abundant Life Restoration Ministries. Camper drew a standing ovation as well the Reed sisters, Anaiah, 10, Keilah, 8, and Annah, 6.
The QACHS Dance team performed jazz and hip-hop routines to the delight of the audience.
Other musicians and singers performed, including Friends in Faith, Tri-Life Community Church’s praise and worship team, Terra Deaton and Naryah Miles.
Wendell Burke read a poem that he wrote on the day’s theme, alluding to Langston Hughes’ poem that “A Dream Deferred” must never die.
Closing remarks were offered by Chesapeake College president Dr. Barbara Viniar who cited Deuteronomy 16, reminding the audience that, “in spite of the barriers and in spite of recent times, we need to pursue justice.”
Hollis concluded the ser vice with thanks to all who helped and participated. After Rev. Karen Dize gave the benediction, the audience filed out to the lobby for refreshments and fellowship.
The celebration was partially supported by the Queen Anne’s Department of Health Cigarette Restitution Fund Program.
This year’s MLK celebration committee members were Hollis, Ralph Deaton, Doris B. Brown, Paulette Jones, Ruth Hollis, Elder Kia Reed, Dr. Barbara Hayes, Dorine Fassett, Rev. Janet Rochester, Willie Pauls, Iwoyna Brown and Genevieve Kennedy.
According to Britannica.com, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.was born January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, and was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.
“(He was a) Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid1950s until his death.” Britannica.com said. “His leadership was fundamental to that movement’s success in ending the legal segregation of African Americans in the South and other parts of the United States. King rose to national prominence as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which promoted nonviolent tactics, such as the massive March on Washington (1963), to achieve civil rights. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.”
The perennially favorite Burke Family Singers were just one group who performed at the 24th Martin Luther King Celebration at Todd Performing Arts Center in Wye Mills on Jan. 16.
The Queen Anne’s County Dance Team performed a hip-hop number during the the 24th Martin Luther King Celebration on Jan. 16 at Chesapeake College. Team coaches are Takiyah Barney and Amber Demby.
Queen Anne’s County native Rev. Clarence Rochester was the master of ceremonies of the 24th Martin Luther King Celebration on Jan. 16 at Chesapeake College. He is pastor of Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Cambridge.
Ten-year-old Ke’myia Camper wowed the audience with her praise dance at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Jan. 16 at Chesapeake College.
Retired Queen Anne’s County math teacher Madelyn Hollis, founder of the Martin Luther King Celebration, has organized the popular event for 24 years.