Beaufort County MLK celebrations keep children as prime focus

January 17, 2011 

Dressed in red, green and gold tribal costumes and school uniforms, young dancers from Bluffton's St. John's Baptist Church and Ridgeland elementary and middle school leapt, stomped and bowed to the beat of music in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy Monday at Ulmer Auditorium in Bluffton Town Hall.

Children from various school, church and community groups proudly displayed artwork, performed dances and sang songs of their own creation at Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations in Bluffton, Beaufort and on Hilton Head Island. Keeping King's dream of equality -- that everyone deserves human rights, regardless of race -- was a message event organizers hoped to pass on to the area's children.

"It's important for the children not only to understand our history, but also to continue to work toward equality. They are our future," said Dee Anderson, an organizer of Bluffton's memorial event. "Dr. King sacrificed his life for us to be able to walk hand in hand, and that's what we need to continue to teach our children."

Despite rain and chilly temperatures Monday, hundreds of people, young and old, gathered for parades and memorial events across Beaufort County to celebrate King's legacy. In addition to Bluffton's 2 p.m. march and celebratory barbecue, other events included:

BEAUFORT

The Beaufort County Ministerial Alliance hosted a 10 a.m. parade and a service at 2 p.m. in honor of King at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Performing Arts Center.

Churches, civic groups, local politicians, sororities, fraternities and military representatives walked or drove cars and decorative floats in honor of King.

Although the parade was short and sparsely attended because of the weather, Beaufort residents lined the sidewalks to cheer and wave to the parade marchers.

"The day is about keeping the dream alive," said event organizer the Rev. Dr. Elijah Washington.

Former Beaufort County public schools superintendent Herman Gaither gave the keynote address at the memorial's traditional closing program.

HILTON HEAD ISLAND

The Rev. Dr. Nannette Pierson, director and founder of Hilton Head's Sandalwood Community Food Pantry, praised King's legacy of compassion and service during her keynote address at Hilton Head High.

The program, themed "Hunger Hurts," was held after the island's annual memorial march. Canned goods for Sandalwood Community Food Pantry were collected at the event.

"Before Dr. King was known as a civil rights leader, he spent his life in the service of others," Pierson said as she addressed the crowd of about 200 at the high school's Visual and Performing Arts Center. "Today, we on Hilton Head take the time to respond to life's most persistent question: What are we doing for others? Through his leadership, he showed what a community can do when they pull together."

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