Don’t let the dream fade

While schools and public offices will be closed Monday because of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Oak Harbor Pastor Fannie Dean is wondering if people understand why.

“Is it just another day off for people? Or do they understand how important he was?” she asks.

Sunday, Dean and other members of the Unity Fellowship invite Oak Harbor residents to a public program to be held at the House of Prayer Church just off Goldie Road. It will honor the spirit and legacy of King through gospel songs, poetry readings, and speakers telling of King’s legacy.

The annual Martin Luther King celebration is organized by Dean and members of Unity Fellowship, which claims members from a number of local churches.

This year’s program will be driven by the idea, “Stand up for justice, stand up for truth.”

“That’s what comes to mind when I think of Dr. King,” Dean said. “And these days, in these times, it’s important again. You’ve got to stand for something.”

Dean said there’s been an annual Martin Luther King celebration in Oak Harbor since as far back as the 1970s.

“It’s always been important,” Dean said. “It’s important to remember everything he did for justice and truth, and realize we’re still so far away from it.”

Whidbey Island Naval Air Station held a Martin Luther King observance Friday morning while Coupeville and Oak Harbor schools are honoring the late civil rights leader through a variety of projects and assemblies.

“It’s important to reflect back on how he shaped history and realize it doesn’t matter what color you are, one person can help unite many,” said 25-year-old Candice McCollum, who is among the singers performing Sunday.

For Dean, she admits it’s hard to imagine living back in the days of segregation and the fierce fight for civil rights. She studies with admiration the efforts of King and others who fought segregation and discrimination.

“I remember hearing my mother’s mother tell me about the spirituals she’d sing and what they meant to her,” Dean said.

While Oak Harbor does have its annual program, both McCollum and Martin say they’re surprised there isn’t more, but they realize King’s impact was most felt near their southern roots.

When Martin was back home in Savannah, Ga., she’d enjoy the large celebrations in her home town and in Atlanta.

“There’s parades, many different celebration events and more that lasts for weeks,” she said.

McCollum hears the stories of the fight for justice when she visits her home in Greensboro, N.C.

“When I go back I talk to my grandparents and they tell me the stories of the sit-ins and marches,” she said.

Both women agree that they feel the presence of Dr. King’s efforts in their everyday lives.

“He gave us so much,” Martin said.

King ultimately gave his life. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

“He could have said no, I’m going to stay at home with my family, I’m not going to march and speak out,” Dean said. “But he didn’t, he had Jesus on his side, and he stood up.”

And while Dean now prefers to adjust the lyrics of “We shall overcome” to “we have overcome,” she said it’s still important how there’s always room for more forward progress.

“Everyone cannot forget how important Dr. King was,” she said. “Americans are so spoiled with having things how they want, but if it wasn’t for him we might not have the rights we do today.”

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