By Janee Law
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards noted that statement Monday night at the Martin Luther King Jr. Jubilee Program hosted by the NAACP’s Huntington branch at Bethel A.M.E. Church of Huntington, where many crowded the benches to celebrate and commemorate the life of King.
Edwards, who is also regional director of the NAACP, said the NAACP is charged with carrying King’s day forward “to ensure that the NAACP is more relevant than ever before, to hold all of people in power, in education and in government accountable, and to ensure that we continue what Dr. Martin Luther King wants us to do and died for on our behalf.”
The crowd at the church included Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, representatives from the office of state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, and Huntington NAACP President Emeritus Dolores Thompson.
Thompson introduced keynote speaker Rev. Larry Jennings, who is pastor of the Bethel A.M.E. Church and current NAACP Huntington branch president.
In his message, Jennings told the story of when King was stabbed by Izola Curry at a Harlem book signing in 1958. Doctors said the blade was inches away from King’s aorta and if he so much as sneezed he would have died.
Around that time, a then ninth-grader at White Plains High School wrote a letter to King. It read: “While it should not matter, I would like to mention I’m a white girl…And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died…I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”
Jennings used this story as a means to urge community members to never give up.
“It need not be said that we live in a world that rims with inequality based on religion, race, gender, and social status and the result is social injustice,” Jennings said. “I refuse to believe that we are so bound by racism — that peace, brotherhood and sisterhood are not possible. If we trust in the God of Martin Luther King, we shall overcome.”
Jennings concluded by saying that, like King, people can continue to press on in their efforts against social injustice.
“King made a difference in his day that is still impacting today,” Jennings said. “He lived a life of faith that bled with the desire to do God’s will, and that bled with the desire to work so that all men could find the pursuit of happiness. We too can make a difference.”
The program also featured a prayer by Rev. Jerry Artis; a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by Sidney Joyner, former third vice president of the NAACP; a recount of the jubilee’s history by Charleen Francis; and performances by the Bethel A.M.E. Church of Huntington Tabernacle Choir and Voices of Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church.