- Last Updated on 07:40 AM 01/19/11
- BY Sonny Riddle
“The legacy of his life is a rose in full bloom now for the entire world to see, to admire, to honor,” said Tanya Cherise Clement, remembering the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We must never let it wither and die.”
Clement was the keynote speaker for the sixth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Breakfast held Monday at The Prizery and sponsored by the L.E. Coleman African-American Museum. The Rev. Obadele St. George, pastor of Cain’s Chapel Baptist Church, Durham, N.C., introduced Clement.
As she was preparing her speech for Monday’s event, Clement said she asked the 6-year-old daughter of her hairdresser who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was.
Clement said she explained to the girl that Dr. King was about love for all people, all people being together, being like one, being equal and no person being better than the other.
Clement said it was this discussion with the 6-year-old that enabled her to shape the message she would bring to those attending the breakfast celebration in memory of Dr. King.
“My purpose today is to remind those of you in the audience old enough to remember the struggle, to remember the sacrifice, that call to service didn’t die with Dr. King,” Clement said.
“My purpose today is to introduce him to a new generation, to help them to understand his dream, to persuade them to enlist in his call to service, for them to understand that you feel his undying love for his fellow man, for them to know of his peacefulness,” the Pittsylvania County native explained.
“He would want me to tell you some of those wonderful things he talked about and lived for and died for,” Clement said.
“What I have to say to you is not from one single speech,” she said. “It is the essence of the sum of them all, and how we as a race, as a people of the world received them and changed the course of our destiny by standing for the cause of freedom for all, equality for all, peace for all, love for all.”
Clement said, “Dr. King once wrote, ‘Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugliness (ugly degeneracy).’”
Clement said Dr. King even addressed the very love that caused him to lose his life and tell how he felt, quoting Dr. King, “If a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”
She again used the slain civil rights leader’s words, saying, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” She also said, “He (Dr. King) had ‘decided to stick with love because hate is too great a burden to bear.’”
Clement said, “He would want me to tell you in his own words that ‘not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service.
“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve,’” she said. “You don’t have to have a college degree to serve, you don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”
Clement said Dr. King was a lover of peace and a dreamer. “You too can dream, but make your dreams happen,” she said. “And no person has the right to rain on your dreams. Live your dreams, and be willing to die for your dreams.”
She said the world was changed the day Dr. King died. “He gave his life for the cause of Christ, for the cause of love, for the cause of peace,” she said. “The dream must go on.”
As she ended her talk, Clement asked for the lights in The Prizery ballroom to be dimmed, for the candle on each table to be lit and for everyone to reflect as she sang “The Rose.”
Following a standing ovation for Clement, Mary Douglas, mistress of ceremonies for the event, said, “We have to teach our young ones, we have a responsibility to serve, we have a responsibility to love regardless if we’re going to achieve the dreams of Dr. King.”
The Rev. Margaret Coleman presented a solo, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” followed by acknowledgements from Garnett Luck, president of the L.E. Coleman African-American Museum.