HARTSVILLE, S.C. – The standing-room-only crowd at the People to People-sponsored Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Monday at Jerusalem Baptist Church on South Sixth Street cheered and gave a standing ovation to the musical introduction by the Center for Learning Children’s Choir of Columbia.
The guest speaker was Bobby Donaldson, a professor at the University of South Carolina, who shared his message to celebrate the birthday and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Donaldson leads the Center for Civil Rights History and Research, housed in the Hollings Special Collections Library at USC.
He said it was only yesterday in the timeline of history that King fought for justice, equality and freedom. He was the voice of the moment, Donaldson said. He also noted that King was not alone in this effort. He said there were other brave individuals fighting with him and before him to make life better for others.
Donaldson mentioned some of these individuals, some living in South Carolina, who paved the way for justice.
Still, in 2018, we are a union that needs more perfecting, he said.
“How long must we endure?” he asked. “How long must we suffer?”
He told the people to keep on dreaming and to rise up and march to the voting booths. He said one day change will come.
“Change will come again,” he said.
Morgan Malloy presented a Youth View of the Future. She is a student at Mayo High School for Math, Science and Technology in Darlington and the daughter of S.C. Sen. Gerald and Davita Malloy. She said there is much work to be done to continue building on the work of King and others.
“We as a people must do better,” she said. “We have no choice.”
She said it is important to be aware of the issues that are important to our community.
“We are in this together,” she said. “We must be accepting of each other.”
She asked the question: What would Martin Luther King Jr. think of her generation? She questioned whether he would be proud of their accomplishments or tremble to see 18-year-olds not registering to vote.
She said her generation must register and vote. She encouraged everyone attending to register to vote. She said the power is in the ballot box.
She concluded by saying that she would tell King not to worry, that many members of her generation are ready to honor and protect his legacy.
Quinetta Buterbaugh, president of the Greater Hartsville Chamber of Commerce, spoke about building a united community. She said as a community we are united by our differences. She said anyone can own a business in Hartsville and thrive. However, she said we must be accepting of our differences.
The Rev. Reginald Floyd, pastor of Jerusalem Baptist, said to make this a day to not only celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. but to make the world better.
Others on the program were Lunella Williams, president of the Hartsville Branch of the NAACP; Jannie Harriot, vice chair of People to People and vice chairperson of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission; Barbara Carraway, chairperson of People to People; the Rev. J D. Blue; Sen. Gerald Malloy; and Pastor Christopher Morgan, Christ Cathedral Ministry.
The Jerusalem Baptist Church Male Ensemble also provided musical selections.
Co-founders of People to People, Clayton Richardson of Hartsville and Hazel Puyet of Myrtle Beach and formerly of Hartsville, were in attendance and acknowledged at the conclusion of the commemorative event.
Ushers were Delta Sigma Theta sorority members.
The event was co-sponsored by the South Carolina African American Heritage Foundation.