Speaker at Rock Hill MLK breakfast calls for action, equality

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 21, 2013 

— Rock Hill political and religious leaders delivered a message about remembering and continuing the work of Martin Luther King Jr. at the city’s 10th annual “Interfaith Prayer Breakfast,” which honors King.

Guest speaker, Rev. Kenneth Monroe, a bishop with the A.M.E. Zion Church, told about 200 people in attendance that society has changed for the better in the past 60 years but more work is need in America to have true equality.

“What matters most is what comes next,” Monroe said.

Monroe is the presiding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church’s South Atlantic Episcopal District, which includes Georgia and South Carolina. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for Clinton Junior College in Rock Hill and Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C.

He called on community leaders and elected officials to take action locally to continue King’s dream for equality and to support the work of groups such as Rock Hill’s MLK Committee.

“It is imperative that we make the kinds of deposits in our community that will enhance and propel our community and citizens into a society that embraces, and is focused on, equality and justice for all,” Monroe said.

One Rock Hill community leader was honored Monday at the breakfast for being a “Dream Keeper” — keeping the legacy of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech alive.

Gus Long, the founder of Emmett Scott Recreation Center’s youth basketball league, has given Rock Hill children love, guidance and support through the program, said Lisa Cramer, member of the MLK Committee.

He is a “father figure” to the kids, who are mostly minorities and young boys, Cramer said.

“The league serves as a training ground for life,” she said.

Long’s influence is especially significant to the children, she said, because he can relate to their personal struggles, including making bad decisions at a young age.

More than 35 years ago, Long began his involvement with Rock Hill’s recreation department, which Long credits with saving him “from a life of crime and destruction.”

“The city gave me a chance at a young age,” he said.

The MLK Committee also honored The Learning Tree childcare center with its “Dream Keeper” business award on Monday.

The Learning Tree, which closed in November 2012, Cramer said, was a place where “the whole child was cared for.”

Because of its founders’ dedication, she said, families in Rock Hill had access to reliable childcare.

“Children were never turned away, even when parents couldn’t afford tuition,” Cramer said.

In addition to local honors, the MLK Committee held a tribute to Shirley Chisholm, the nation’s first black woman elected to Congress. Chisholm was first elected in 1968 as a representative from New York.

In 1972, she became the first black candidate for president. She didn’t win the Democratic Party’s nomination but claimed 152 delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention.

Trina Ricks of York Technical College delivered the tribute to Chisholm, saying that despite not winning the nomination for president, Chisholm made history just by running and earning about 10 percent of the delegates’ votes.

Throughout Chisholm’s political career, Ricks said, she was “un-bought and un-bossed.”

Chisholm wouldn’t want to be remembered as the first black woman in Congress, Ricks said, but “as a black woman who lived in the twentieth century and dared to be herself.”

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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