By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: January 31, 2019 | 3:45 p.m.
SURRY – Over 400 people were on hand for Surry County’s January 21 NAACP Commemoration Breakfast for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Despite cold temperatures outside Luther Porter Jackson Middle School, there was a warm sense of comradery and community pride inside as members of the Board of Supervisors, School Board, Clergy, and NAACP joined with school officials, community members, students and school administrators eagerly anticipating an address by Surry’s own Ronald Macell Howell, Jr.
This year’s student-led program featured representatives of classes throughout the school system, and eighth grader Desiree Rawlings did an excellent job of keeping the program on track as Mistress of Ceremony. A band featuring Nehemiah Bowden, Zion Charity, Corey Johnson, and Alvin Wilson II kept the audience entertained with renditions of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “We Shall Overcome,” and a delicious breakfast was shared by all.
Crowd of over 400 preparing for Surry County NAACP Breakfast in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Terry Harris)
When it time for the keynote address, Ronald M. Howell, Sr. introduced the speaker: his son, Ronald M. Howell, Jr. First he produced chuckles from the audience as he relayed how, on the way to the hospital for his son’s birth on February 14, 1988, he was ticketed for speeding. Then he described this incident as “the beginning of numerous years of disruptions, including more than 50 disciplinary ‘pink slips’ from the principals” of Surry County Schools – the very location where his son was about to speak. Finally, he thanked the teachers and school officials in the audience who helped to raise his son, and then brought tears to that son’s eyes as he shared how Ronald, Jr. overcame his tendencies to disrupt as the years passed, concluding with the words, “Prayer changes things.”
Finally it was time for Ronald, Jr., a native of Surry County with deep roots in agriculture, spirituality and civic service, to speak. He first introduced the rest of his family, then dedicated his speech to the children in the audience. In a moving address, he detailed how he had read many of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches for inspiration. He shared how, in them, he found the themes of equality, brotherhood, love, unity and non-violence – a picture of the American Dream for all. He encouraged the audience to reflect on how, if Dr. King were alive today, he would challenge everyone to unite, to engage in their community, and to dedicate themselves to service. And he described his own motivation with the words, “It’s not where you come from, or where you’re going, but most importantly what you’re doing in your pursuit to help others.”
The Band kept all in attendance entertained with selections likeLift Every Voice and Sing!, Battle Hymn of the Republic, and We Shall Overcome
Surry County Assistant School Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims said, “I have attended these since 2007, and of all that I’ve been at, this one was really fitting for the occasion. More students were there, and it felt more like the speaker was directing the conversation to the next generation.
“Not only did we fill up all the designated seats for this breakfast, but we had to take out additional tables to seat everyone,” Sims continued. “I think they came because they knew what a powerful speaker he is. And he delivered.”