His legacy began before he had a dream, before he marched into Washington, D.C., and changed the hearts and minds of the world, even before he rallied at a church in Atlanta, but it is this legacy that reminds all of us that one person can make a difference and change the world.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929 and by the 1950s he would began his fight for Civil Rights. On Jan. 1, 1957 he rallied in Atlanta, and it is the speech he gave on that day which inspired the Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon Committee.
Mistress of Ceremony Monday at the Moose Club in Dunkirk, Loretta Slaton Torain read his speech as if we were all there hearing it from him on that day not so very long ago.
“I am thanking you for the moral support that you have given us in our struggle in Montgomery, Alabama. Although we walked and struggled for more than 12 months we were aware of the fact that we were not walking alone, but there were hundreds and thousands of people all over this nation all over the world who were walking with us,” she continued. “The struggle is not over, it is not over in Montgomery, and it is not over in the south, for we have come a long long way, it’s true, but we have a long long way to go … the struggle continues.”
City of Dunkirk Mayor Anthony Dolce said King was a leader who is most known for his non-violence approach.
“Dr. King had a dream where people could live in peace and it inspired people all over the world,” he said. “He taught by his example and his dream sustains us.”
Village of Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe said Martin Luther King Jr. led with love.
“He believed one day all people would live together in peace,” he said. “I call upon all citizens to remember Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 20 and the fulfillment of his dream on each and every day.”
Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan said he was honored to be there since it was his first time.
“He (MLK) was deeply committed to non-violence during the civil rights movement,” he said. “He is continued to be remembered on our schools and public buildings that have his name, and it is in his hardships he overcame to make it fair for everyone.”
Six college students received the Janice D. Slaton scholarship. Joyce Harvard Smith said she was proud to present these six lucky students with this honor.
Janice D. Slaton was born in 1962 in Dunkirk and died of breast cancer in 2011.
In her life she became an assistant district attorney and assistant public defender for Chautauqua County.
Loretta Slaton Torain said as an African American female, Slaton’s heroes were all those who had paved the way so she would have the opportunity to go to law school.
“She believed it was now her turn to give back to the community,” she said. “She was a believer in education and had a love for young people.”
Slaton believed it “took a village to raise a child.” It is this belief that inspired a scholarship in her name for young people in order to further their education.
Khyshwaunna Nance, Ed-win Gomez Jr., Audrey Divine, Zach Torain, La’Shonda Moreland, and Paul Williams all knew and respected Slaton. They are all honored to have this scholarship and believe in what she believed in, giving back to the community.
Dean of Admissions at Daemen College Frank Williams gave the keynote speech after the scholarships were handed out.
“It is with a sense of joy to come back to the environment which gave so much to me, and I want people to walk away with something,” he said. “My environment and influences helped me get where I am today.”
Williams was raised in Buffalo by a single mother and spoke of how he met his father.
“I leaned on the words of Martin Luther King Jr,” he said. “If you can’t fly, run, If you can’t walk, crawl, and you have to keep going.”
Williams said Martin Luther King Jr. means standing up for everyone.
“In 1963 he had a dream and he wasn’t killed till 1968. He had that dream, he woke up, and he went out,” he said. “It all comes down to April 4, 1967 when 3,000 people heard him say ‘America is the greatest prevailer of evil today.”
Williams said that stings to hear those words because he believes America is the greatest country on earth.
“The struggle he fought continues, it is an American issue, it is a human race issue,” he said. “Plant a seed, and let someone water it, watch that seed blossom and grow, and whether you are the planter of the seed or the one who waters it, you watch it blossom.”
His legacy prevails and one day freedom will ring and everyone will shout, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
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