By Ryan Cornell
FRONT ROYAL -- Had the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. still been alive today, he would've turned 85 last week. A praise and worship service with spirited singing and dancing and a rousing sermon celebrated the life of the peacemaker at the Warren County Community Center on Monday.
About 80 people attended the event hosted by the Warren and Page County branch of the NAACP, including several ministers from local churches.
Vida Timbers introduced the service by referring to King as a man of peace and non-violence who fought for liberty and worked for the people.
"Even as death was confronted, as the journey reached Memphis, he could say as his final triumph that in life he had found something worth dying for," said Timbers. "Something worth life itself, the promised land, a land of freedom with justice."
Two girls from Grace Christian Ministries in Front Royal performed worship and praise dance as they moved in synchronized rhythm to "Power in the Name of Jesus" and "Take Me to the King."
Zaporrah Roman, 10, of Stephens City, and Taja Showers, 11, of Front Royal, said they had practiced the dances for the past two Fridays after school.
Roman said she views King as a role model.
"He gave us freedom," she said. "Without him, we'd probably be slaves still."
NAACP Branch President Suetta Freeman, 69, was also among the roomful of people who recognized King as a hero.
"He's like my idol," she said. "He's somebody who stepped out, carried the faith, looked after other people and that's basically what I want to do and it's my goal."
She said she was involved in the integration of Warren County schools in 1958 "a little bit ahead of Martin Luther King" and recalled seeing his marches on the TV screen a few years later.
She said it's vital for kids to keep learning about the civil rights movement and the challenges they faced.
"It's important because the kids don't know the struggle," said Freeman. "They don't have a clue as to where they came from. And if you don't know where you come from, you're not going to know where you're going and how you're going to get there."
The Rev. Ludwell Brown, 68, president of the Culpeper NAACP branch, anchored the event as guest speaker.
Brown graduated from high school in Warrenton in 1964 and enlisted in the army the next year. For the past 20 years, he's served as pastor for Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Haywood.
He stirred up the crowd with anecdotes of racism he experienced in the U.S. Army and called the audience to action.
"We grown-ups have got to start teaching those that are coming after us in a way that they don't mind sharing, volunteering and helping folks that are less fortunate than they are," he said.
Echoing the lyrics of Otis Redding, he reinforced his message that "if you're not gonna do something, get out of the way."
"Too many of us are sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away," he said. "You gotta stop watching the tide roll away. You gotta stand up and start doing something.
"Remember that letter King wrote from Selma jail? If he had not written that letter and just said, 'I'm gonna wait until one of my brothers gets me out of here,' King would've probably died in that jail. But he seized the moment to write the letter that is still effective today as it was then on encouraging someone else to not give up."
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org