Oak Harbor honors King

Schools, government offices and other public buildings will be empty Monday as people have the day off due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday. Tomorrow Oak Harbor will celebrate the memory of the man who through his role in the Civil Rights Movement helped change the lives of so many.

The community is invited to the Oak Harbor Dr. King Celebration, at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow, Jan. 19, at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church.

There will be praise dancing and singing, inspirational guest speakers, and a program filled with reminders of why we honor King. The Unity Fellowship of Oak Harbor will bring a choir of about 30 people, ranging in age from just under 2-years-old to adult.

They will sing a number of inspirational and praise pieces that, in the words of Fannie Dean, pastor of Mission Ministries, will have folks “feeling the love” and help people “understand what Dr. King’s message of wanting to see all the walls torn down.” Mission Ministries is one of the many churches in the cornucopia of people that come together to form the Unity Fellowship.

Those expected to attend tomorrow’s celebration include Oak Harbor Police Chief Steve Almon and his wife Connie, Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen, and NAS Whidbey Island Commanding Officer Stephen Black.

Cohen is a “long-time attendee of the celebration,” and last year Dean was able to drag her “good friend” Mayor Cohen up on the stage to join in singing, “Oh, Happy Day.”

Songs on the program will include: “In the Sanctuary”, “Oh, Happy Day”, “I’m Available to You”, “Awesome”, and “ Lift Up Every Voice and Sing.” The latter has become known as the Black National Anthem, and was written by poet, songwriter and civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson and his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1900. It is reserved for important occasions, and according to Dean the lyrics keep with Dr. King’s message that more can be accomplished if people are united.

Connie Almon, Police Chief Almon’s wife, will be one of the featured soloists, along with Emmie Wheeler.

“Everyone should come with an open mind, open heart and simply listen to the message, because it’s all in how you receive it,” said choir member and minister, Gregory Townsend.

Even though King’s assassination in 1968 stopped him from being able to spread his message, Townsend views the importance of King’s message to be just as great today as it was during the Civil Rights years of the 1960s. Some of that can be seen in Townsend’s poem “Living the Dream,” which was published in 1993.

The poem relates King’s message to the world in which we now live where, “Gentle are the days ahead of us, many are the problems we neglect to discuss.” In the poem, Townsend asks, “I wonder what tomorrow will hold, could it be the dream will unfold,” and later reminds people, “The dream, the vision, lives on in you and me that some day, some day, in brotherhood we’ll all be free.”

“If we can get someone to take their blinders off we can get them to realize we’re all the same and want all the same opportunities to succeed and better ourselves,” said the minister.

The Oak Harbor community’s Martin Luther King Day celebration dates back to 1986 when it was started by the Oak Harbor Black Citizens Association. Since 1996 the Unity Fellowship has been the lead in organizing this inspirational event to honor Dr. King.

Donations made at the celebration will go toward minority scholarships for Oak Harbor High School seniors.

Schools mark King holiday

Looking toward Black History month in February, the Oak Harbor schools have been incorporating projects, programs and assemblies relating to diversity, equality and understanding each others’ differences into the basic curriculum of reading, writing and arithmetic.

Students will have no school Monday due to the federal holiday. Through these projects, which have been more in focus this week due to the holiday, they have an opportunity to learn why there is a day to honor Dr. King.

Broadview and Oak Harbor elementary students teamed up for a musical presentation that included both instrumental and gospel / spiritual freedom pieces. Fourth and fifth grade students performed “Ringing in the New Year with Peace, Love and Freedom,” which was organized by Renee Hall, a district music teacher.

Throughout the month Oak Harbor Elementary’s character education theme is diversity and tolerance.

Both Oak Harbor High School and Oak Harbor Middle School welcomed motivational speaker Sam Glenn Friday.

During the assembly, Glenn told humorous tales from his youth that helped him realize how to make positive choices, build character and succeed.

Selling frozen pizzas door-to-door in the seventh grade helped him earn enough money to attend outdoor education camp, but also taught him, “When you have a vision and you’re in pursuit of a dream you don’t let the door slam on you.”

Just after telling the students “life can reward you more than you can imagine when you pursue your dream,” Glenn created a chalk mural that will be on display at the high school.

Over at Clover Valley Elementary, Dianne Piazzon’s second graders are practicing for their stage debuts in next Tuesday’s presention of “The Rainbow People,” a play about non-discrimination.

Clover Valley art teacher Claire O’Connell has been working with third-graders who are creating “I Have a Dream” art projects. The students choose one single word as their dream, use it to create a design, and also write briefly what it would take to achieve that dream.

Assemblies were also held at Clover Valley Elementary and North Whidbey Middle School.

You can reach Whidbey News-Times contributing writer Cynthia Woolbright at or call 675-6611.

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