Wednesday, January 22, 2014

TOP STORY >> Nephew, senator uphold MLK legacy

Leader staff writer

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked, “What are you doing to help others?” his nephew told a crowded gym Monday during the MLK community-empowerment summit and carnival at the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.

The nephew, Isaac Newton Farris Jr., said his aunt asked the holiday be changed to a day of service 10 years after Congress established it.

Farris explained that a day of service is what the civil rights activist would have wanted if he were alive today.

Farris continued, “When people talk about helping somebody, the first thing that comes to mind is money. Money is fine. I’m sure we could all use more of it.”

But he said money isn’t everything. Farris said helping others could be as simple as picking up a newspaper at the end of someone’s driveway and bringing it to them.

“It takes a certain mindset,” to serve others, Farris continued. He said, “The more you do, the more impact it has on your life.”

Farris told the audience he hoped that the day of service to honor his uncle would encourage people to spend two days, three days, seven days or even more time helping others.

To those in the audience who performed acts of service on Monday, Farris said, “You are an inspiration to the nation.”

Other highlights of the event included guest speaker state Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) and a demonstration by Anderson’s Taekwondo Center.

Chesterfield pointed out that King advocated for education and the right to vote.

She also said he wanted people of every race to enjoy all of what America has to offer, which now includes affordable health care.

“It is not acceptable that women pay more for health insurance than men. The Affordable Health Care (Act) says that’s not going to happen anymore. It is unacceptable for people to go into bankruptcy because insurance companies have capped the amount that can be paid for catastrophic illnesses thus plunging too many people into bankruptcy because we have so many illnesses that cost so much money.”

Chesterfield also said it was unacceptable that poor people couldn’t afford preventive care and had to visit emergency rooms to see a doctor.

Then she criticized the new law requiring voters to have identification cards at the polls. She said IDs are OK for privileges like getting on a plane or buying alcohol. But voting is a right and everyone should have access to it, Chesterfield said.

She said less than 50 percent of this country’s population is registered to vote.

“I’m tired of people telling me ‘my vote doesn’t make a difference.’ I think if 51 percent of the people in this country voted it would make a difference,” the senator said.

Chesterfield emphasized the importance of vocational schools and job-training programs as important parts of the education system.

“We’ve got to provide opportunities for that and stop talking only about you’ve got to go to college. No, you’ve got to be career ready,” she said.

Chesterfield challenged the audience to be “culturally competent.” She also said, “I would dare you to get wisdom. I would dare you to get knowledge. I would dare you to get understanding. There is a challenge before each and every one of us to greatness. There is a challenge before each and every one of us to service.”

During the taekwondo de-monstration that preceded Chesterfield’s address, master Richard Anderson spoke of how his students — some raised in broken homes and others raised in loving homes — know right from wrong.

The students entered the gym chanting, “Just say no; don’t do drugs.”

Later, they told Anderson a person who cheats, steals, lies, takes drugs, abuses alcohol or wears baggy pants is “a low- down dirty dog.”

Anderson said the responsibility for keeping children on the straight and narrow falls to the older generation and their parents. “We’ve got to do a better job,” he told the crowd.

Anderson also shared the story of his instructor, Ricky Gaston, who became his student at age 12 and now has a 4-year-old son enrolled at the center.

Gaston was raised by his grandmother because his mother and father were absentee parents. In his neighborhood, the kids had no choice but to join a gang, Anderson said. One day, Gaston was so angry with his father that he and his brother threatened to kill their father.

Anderson said, “I grabbed them and pushed them up against the fence saying ‘that’s your father. You can’t do anything about that. You cannot be like him.”

Gaston’s son, Trey, chanted positive mantras while showing off his taekwondo moves at the event.

The Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, the Jacksonville chapter of the NAACP and the city sponsored the summit and carnival, which featured a petting zoo, horseback riding and vendors.

Jacksonville also celebrated the holiday with a citywide cleanup.