Bainbridge citizens mark MLK Jr. Day, inauguration

Published 5:34 pm Monday, January 21, 2013

Pastor Sylvester Robinson, the guest speaker at Monday's memorial service marking the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., speaks as U.S. President Barack Obama is seen on a projection screen showing his second inauguration in Washington, D.C.

A crowd filled the gym at Hutto Middle School Monday morning to celebrate both Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday and the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama for his second term in office.

President Obama publicly took his oath of office, as administered by Supreme Court Justice John G. Roberts, shortly after 11:30 a.m. The inauguration, which also featured Vice-President Joe Biden taking his oath of office, was shown on a large projection screen set up in the gym. The live video from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., played silently behind the speaker’s podium during Bainbridge’s MLK Jr. Day celebration, with the volume un-muted during President Obama’s recitation of the oath of office.

The U.S. Constitution requires the oath of office to be officially administered on Jan. 20 of the year following a presidential election, so Obama had already taken the oath of office in a private ceremony at the White House on Sunday. However, the inauguration was moved to Monday, which just happened to also be the observance of the late civil rights leader’s birthday.

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Earlier, nearly 100 people—not counting the members of a middle school marching band from Quincy, Fla.—gathered outside the Decatur County Courthouse for the day’s opening ceremony and parade. The James A. Shanks Middle School Band, dressed in their school colors of orange and black, performed music at the opening ceremony, during the parade and at the memorial program.

Six women who positively influence Bainbridge and Decatur County through their lives were honorees on Monday. They include Alesia Brinson, Patricia Williams, Tandria Phillips, Charlotte Howard, Vonda Hubbard and Helen Sanders.

The guest speaker for the memorial program, Dr. Sylvester Robinson was also from Quincy, where he is the senior pastor of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church.

Pastor Robinson’s speech touched on the theme of this year’s MLK Jr. Day celebration in Bainbridge: “Reaching the Next Generation…What’s At Stake?”

Robinson said he believed Dr. King was “still looking forward” when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968 at the age of 39. The pastor asked the audience to be filled with optimism and embrace their families as they work toward a better life.

“Breathe hope into young people,” Robsinson said. “Let them know that they are more than just instrumentalists or athletes…let them know they are something of worth.”

The pastor said he believed the church should be “the backbone or fabric for the next generation,” noting how Martin Luther King Jr. began his advocacy for civil rights from the pulpit his small Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga.

He also encouraged the children and youth in attendance to work hard at school, with the goal of attending a four-year college or trade school. The pastor quoted noted civil rights activist and author W.E.B. Dubois, who said, “Education makes people easy to lead, but impossible to enslave.”

“I’m standing here not because of my own merit, but because of the trails blazed before me by leaders like Dr. King,” Robinson said. “It’s the preachers, moms and dads who have led us here to have better opportunities.”

The Potter Street Elementary Honor Chorus performed inspirational songs such as “Free at Last” at Monday’s opening ceremonies.

The Hutto Middle School Chorus sang during the memorial service.

Special honorees for the day included six women who positively impact the community: Alesia Brinson, Patricia Williams, Tandria Phillips, Charlotte Howard, Vonda Hubbard and Helen Sanders.