We Shall Overcome

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Thermal Belt Friendship Council presents Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program

TRYON — The annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program on Saturday fittingly ended with the singing of “We Shall Overcome” and the audience embracing in hugs.

The program, given by the Thermal Belt Friendship Council and funded through a free community event grant from the Polk County Community Foundation, was held Saturday evening at the Tryon Fine Arts Center. The program ended with fellowship and a free reception.

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The Garrison Chapel Choir, led by Director Coretha Littlejohn led the music as well as Dr. Warren Carson, who led the audience in the singing of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome” to end the program.

Sheneika Smith was the keynote speaker and talked of the pursuit for total freedom being like a race.

“When I think of mountains we have already moved together as American people, it calls for rejoicing,” Smith said. “But to see how far we have to go before we are all free; the only way to resist grief and lament, is to think of this pursuit for total freedom as a race. Each generation has its leg and must carry its own weight.”

She described the fight towards black liberation as a 4x400m race closer to the “Promise Land.”

The first leg, she said, was centuries before us called emancipation.

“It was run by abolitionists,” she said. “Athletes call the first leg of a relay race the pressure leg.”

Leg two, Smith said, is described as shaping up. Runners of the second leg are in tip- top shape. She named Fannie Lou Hamer, Baynard Rustin, Ella Baker, Dorothy Height, MLK, JFK, Thurgood Marshall and Nina Simone as runners of the second leg.

The third leg, Smith said, is the most under-recognized leg of the race.

“Friendship Council and Tryon community would you join me on the third leg of this race,” Smith said. “It is our turn to do something for the history books in western North Carolina. The third leg of the race is the most critical. In many ways, though given little acknowledgement, the third leg is the pivotal leg of the race. The assignment is either to hold on and maintain good posture or potentially try and rescue the team from a difficult position.”

Smith graduated from Asheville High School and attended college in Winston-Salem. She worked in Charlotte then returned to her hometown of Asheville, where she founded a company called “Date My City,” which produces events that combine elements of entertainment, education and a call to action. Smith also serves as the Tzedek Fellow in Charge of Community Development at Green Opportunities. She was elected to a four-year term in 2017 on the Asheville City Council.

The Friendship Council also presented its annual awards to local youth for both art and an essay.

The college scholarship was presented to Polk County Early College student Makayla Lail.

Art awards included first place to Milka Farias; second place to Elizabeth Fincher; third place to Emily Audet and honorable mentions to Cole Hicks, Charlee Joy, Chase Shehan, Perla Alviar and Jackson Vinesett.