HOLIDAY OBSERVANCE Clerk of courts urges audience to preserve King legacy
More than 300 people attended the session.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The key to keeping Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream alive is for adults to educate and challenge youths and recommit to the civil rights struggle, said the featured speaker at the 22nd annual community workshop celebrating the slain leader's life.
Sarah Brown-Clark, Youngstown clerk of courts and a longtime associate professor of English at Youngstown State University, told the young people in the audience Monday that her accomplishments didn't come easily and that they also will have to "keep on pushing" to be successful.
A standing-room-only crowd of 300 to 350 people in First Presbyterian Church's auditorium on Wick Avenue heard Brown-Clark say the children always must be taught about King and his dream, and the Mahoning Valley community must go beyond the three-day community activities annually planned to commemorate his legacy.
"What would happen if churches, schools and the community would keep Dr. King's dream alive 24/7, 365 days a year?" said Brown-Clark, who for 12 years served as director of YSU's black studies and coordinator of the university's Black History Month celebrations.
She said it is possible to find the road to a brighter tomorrow.
But it is the responsibility of adults who lived through the civil rights struggle in the 1960s and 1970s, Brown-Clark said, to recommit to that struggle and share with youths today "what we know, so they can move us into a brighter tomorrow."
She added that if all Youngstown children see of the King legacy is a street named after him in one of the poorer parts of the city (Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the North Side) and a school named after him that is closed, "they won't be able to make a difference. That's not the message we want to send."
Brown-Clark suggested four ways to keep Dr. King's dream of justice and equality for everyone alive:
UZero tolerance of racial injustice in the Mahoning Valley, especially in education. Children must face diverse situations; parents must encourage children to become literate before sending them to work; and adults must teach children what they must do to survive in a sometimes hostile world, Brown-Clark said.
UChange in politics. Voting for candidates strictly because of race or ethnic descent must end. "Go beneath the surface and ask those running for office hard questions. And don't give them a pass when they don't answer those questions," she said.
UAffordable transportation opportunities for the elderly and the infirm.
UEffective communication. Adults should not let 21st century dress and speaking among youngsters get in the way of imparting to them the things they will need to build a successful life and share that success with others less fortunate.
She used the story of the three little pigs to illustrate her point. Only the pig who built the house of bricks was able to ward off the big, bad wolf's attack.
"We must teach our children to build their hearts and minds with bricks" so they can withstand the troubles of this world, Brown-Clark said.
Civil rights panel
A panel discussion on civil rights challenges in this century followed Brown-Clark's presentation.
The speakers were the Rev. Lonnie K.A. Simon, pastor emeritus of New Bethel Baptist Church; Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court; Dr. Khalid Iqbal, a pediatrician and past president of the Islamic Society of Youngstown; and Jean Engle, YSU assistant director of marketing and a lesbian activist.
The Rev. Mr. Simon said America cannot continue to call itself a Christian nation if it doesn't repent of its sins in order to bring glory to God's name. Those sins include taking a passive position on social and economic injustices that threaten our freedoms, he said.
Mr. Simon also challenged the clergy, particularly the blacks, to get their Christian education departments involved in dealing with such issues as the Patriot Act and gay and lesbian rights.
Judge Dellick said the community must get back to the basics of instructing children on moral values to stem the increasing juvenile crime rate. She said the courts are trying as adults more children than ever for violent crimes. All the diversions the court has put in place won't succeed without community and parental participation, she said.
Dr. Iqbal said the restrictive measures of the Patriot Act are a serious concern, particularly in the Muslim community. He said the Patriot Act, passed after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, challenges human rights and imperils the freedoms the Constitution was designed to protect.
He said people can come under government surveillance for getting a certain book from the library or researching topics on the Internet. He urged pressure on Congress to amend and change some of the act.
Engle said the civil rights movement has been a model for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities to use to protect their rights. "We deserve to have our relationships acknowledged," she said.