MLK Day ceremony in Hartsville a call to action
HARTSVILLE, S.C. – A drum major is the primary leader of a marching band.
A drum major for justice, however, is anyone who can pick the banner for justice and encourage others to do the same, according to William “Billy” Herrington, the keynote speaker at an MLK event in Hartsville.
That was one of many messages given at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service held Monday at the Jersusalem Baptist Church in Hartsville.
A native of Hartsville and a Butler High School Class of 1968 alum, Herrington encouraged the audience about the accomplishments of King some 60 years ago, but the struggles continue today.
A recent mayor of Lawrenceville, Virginia, Herrington painted the illustration of what a musical drum major does and how people, like instrument players, can participate to promote justice.
“The celebration around Martin Luther King’s Day is a special day for me,” Herrington said. “It’s a day that of reflection. It’s a day of thinking of where we’ve come, where we’ll go and how we go to wherever we are.
“The drum major, if you will, is a leader. And you can tell – a leader stands tall. And he assembles people … for the purpose of leading the band.
“And in and around Dr. King, he had people around him. He was not alone in what he accomplished.”
Herrington remembered several groups during the civil rights movement of the 1960s who worked to accomplish the goals King put forth. There was the Little Rock Nine and the Summerville bus case, among others.
Herrington challenged the audience to become drum majors for justice, to fight for the gains they have already won, but not to lose sight of the struggles ahead like housing, voter registration and potential suppression.
He recounted the Georgia incident during the past election cycle where names were removed from the voter rolls, voting locations were consolidated and people were discouraged to register to vote – all out in the open where the world was watching.
“Ever since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he (King) would argue that we have observed a slow, directed, deliberate effort to disenfranchise and to marginalize the black vote,” he said.
There were a half-dozen other speakers from politicians to pastors, and even the youth of Hartsville.
Sen. Gerald Malloy spoke about reflecting on the past year.
“About this time each year, I look back at the year we just had,” he said. “It’s about remembering the struggles – our victories and our failures. It’s about remembering the path to greatness and the steps that set us straight and forward.”
Hartsville High School senior Kerlyn Deondre Mondresir was recently named the Hartsville Junior Fire Fighter of the Year and is the Executive Officer of the Hartsville High School JROTC.
“As a young person in the community, I realize that my friends and I are the future,” he said. “This may cause some of you a great level of concern. However, I am here to tell you there is no need to fear. We got this.
“We are going to continue to take this community, this country and this world to new heights with our ability to be innovative. While you watch us take our creativity to a new level keep in mind, we are more than innovative and creative. We are aware and concerned about social and political issues that exist in the world.”
Freshman Hartsville City Councilman Tre Gammage talked about making connections and reaching out to people. During his campaigning and after his election, Gammage noticed a deficiency in Hartsville.
“When it came to the point of building a united community, I saw a deficit,” he said. “I saw a deficit in this city, in this community of people who look like me, and I wasn’t OK with that. “Deondre is not OK with that. Sen. Malloy is not OK with that. And you’re not OK with that, either. That is why we are here today.”
Gammage emphasized that building the community is what the day was about. The work at the Marion Avenue Cemetery was about community, and in every way, Dr. King was about building community.