Serving the oppressed and poverty-threatened men and women in the local community will create the greatest good, Winthrop alumnus and historian Derrick Alridge told attendees at Rock Hill’s 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Interfaith Prayer Breakfast Monday morning at First Baptist Church.
Alridge, who serves as a professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, delivered the keynote speech in the popular event that brought at least 600 attendees from across York County together in reflection and prayer.
The Rock Hill native, who attended Rock Hill High School and earned two degrees from Winthrop University, said he became fascinated with King’s legacy as an activist after interviewing several of King’s close family and associates.
In his lifetime, Alridge said, King was an unpopular leader for speaking out against the ravages of poverty and racism. King, he said, found it immoral to not speak out against unemployment or poverty in a country with as many resources as the United States.
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“If King were here,” he said, “he would urge us to push for the social programs that alleviate poverty. He would call us to advocate for programs like Head Start, Medicaid, Medicare. Any program that helps the poor. People might not like that, but it’s true.”
And Alridge made a pointed rebuke of President Donald Trump’s reported recent vulgar comments about Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
“King transcends race,” Alridge said. “He transcends class and conveys his vision of a beautiful racial mosaic of America living in harmony, and what King called the ‘beloved community.’ I can say that if King were here today, he would include immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa... in the mosaic of his beloved community.”
Alridge said it was critical for people who follow King’s teachings to be the “foot soldiers” of righteousness in their own community. Alridge pointed to civil rights activists in Rock Hill like Brother David Boone, Winthrop’s first African-American graduate student Cynthia Roddey and his own mother Sadie Williams.
The prayer breakfast honored Winthrop vice president for student life Frank Ardaiolo by awarding him the Dream Keeper Award given to those in the community who best represent King’s message and morals.
Ardaiolo, who will retire from his position this summer after 29 years of service to Winthrop, has been a reliable voice for the underserved in York County, according to Dean of Students Bethany Marlowe, who introduced Ardaiolo.
Ardaiolo served as one of the original members of the “No Room for Racism” committee in Rock Hill and even spent time as a United Nations peacekeeper in Africa.
Ardaiolo said Winthrop was the catalyst that allowed him to achieve many goals. He said he shared the award with other activists like Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys, Manning Kimmel and Phyllis Fauntleroy, who he said were all there at the beginning of “No Room for Racism.”
King transcends race. He transcends class and conveys his vision of a beautiful racial mosaic of America living in harmony, and what King called the ‘beloved community.’
Winthrop alumnus and historian Derrick Alridge, on Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I’m a connector,” he said. “I connect people together to help them do good work. It’s about never giving up.”
Others were recognized at the event.
Olivia Ratliff of Dutchman Creek Middle School and Chandler Crouch of South Pointe High School both earned first place in their respective essay contests. The two students wrote essays focusing on servant leadership and being an advocate for the community around them.
Carlo Dawson, of Rock Hill’s Community Relations Council, created a dramatic interpretation of Coretta Scott King, the wife of the slain civil rights leader.
Gettys, who recently took charge as Rock Hill’s first new mayor in the past 20 years, asked attendees to “be the light on the hill and to show that light in Rock Hill.”
Alridge called on attendees to call out racism and disparity where they saw it. He said it was important to turn to community, rather than chaos.
“If we walk hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, we will reach the promised land,” he said.
King’s legacy was discussed and on display elsewhere in York County Monday.
Catawba Nuclear workers ‘pay it forward’
Joy Travis said she felt called to action on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
It was an ideal day to serve others, she said. Travis, with around 40 of her Duke Energy colleagues at the Catawba Nuclear Station on Lake Wylie participated in a day of service Monday to create hundreds of hygiene packs for children and senior citizens throughout York County.
“I feel like I need to help,” Travis said. “It’s a privilege to serve those in need.”
The Catawba Nuclear Station teammates took the time Monday morning to create nearly 600 hygiene kits for those in need. Around 350 of them will go to senior citizens served by the York County Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program.
I’m glad we can extend ourselves. This is about going the extra mile, taking time out of daily life to serve.
Kevin Thompson, served during Day of Service at Catawba Nuclear Station
The remaining kits will go to students at Kinard Elementary School in Clover who are from low-income homes and are part of the food backpack program.
The kits will be delivered this week. The station will also send donations of shoes and sports items given by station workers for residents of the Children’s Attention Home in Rock Hill.
Duke spokesperson Sara Collins said most of the supplies for the hygiene kits were supplied by the Duke Energy Foundation for South Carolina.
Gena Lucas said she has worked at Catawba Nuclear for nearly three decades. She said Duke Energy always gives employees the opportunity to serve their community.
“It’s about paying it forward,” she said.
Kevin Thompson, who serves on Catawba’s employee engagement council, said he was proud to help organize the event.
“I’m glad we can extend ourselves,” he said. “This is about going the extra mile, taking time out of daily life to serve.”