FRCSW, NAVAIR Celebrate 33rd Annual MLK Commemoration
Military and civilian personnel from Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) joined together January 16 to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Sponsored by FRCSW, the National African-American Pipelines Advisory Team and Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Service Center, the 33rd annual commemoration was held in the Commander, Naval Air Forces auditorium on board Naval Air Station North Island.
Opening remarks were offered by FRCSW Executive Officer Capt. Steven Leehe who spoke of King’s legacy and enduring impact upon the evolution of American society.
“His profound vision and unyielding dream and bold action changed our nation and the entire world forever and for the better; a man who dared the nation to dream with him,” Capt. Leehe said.
Guest speaker Cynthia James-Price who is an entrepreneur, reserve officer and active in the management of non-profit agencies, referenced the need to partnership with others to affect change and optimism.
“I feel that because I had Martin Luther King before me to pave the way, I’ve tried to make the time to pave the way for others. So I’ve dedicated my time to helping others along the way,” she said.
“It’s not too early or it’s not too late to step into your destiny or to accomplish your dreams.”
Since 1986, the holiday honoring King is observed the third Monday of each January, and serves as a reminder of the struggle achieved through peaceful means to pursue racial equality and civil rights for all Americans.
Born January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Ga., King skipped the ninth and 12th grades and enrolled in Morehouse College in Atlanta at the age of 15. Ordained a minister while still an undergraduate, he served as the assistant pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church at age 18.
The following year he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse. King’s scholastic achievements continued when, at age 21, he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer Theology Seminary in Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in theology from Boston University at 25.
As he pursued his studies, black Americans in some cities were forced to sit in the back of buses and forfeit their seats to whites. But in 1955, black seamstress Rosa Parks took a front seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus. When told to vacate the seat for a white passenger, she refused. Parks, who died at age 92 on October 24, 2005, was arrested for violating the transportation segregation laws of Montgomery.
Saying the lives of black Americans were “sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and discrimination…,” King used the incident to inspire others to peacefully boycott the bus company.
Parks’ arrest and the resulting boycott gained national attention and in less than six months, the federal courts had declared transportation segregation laws unconstitutional.
King’s methods in this historic protest were used as a model by other civil rights activists throughout the country, and the Civil Rights Movement had begun.
In the ensuing years, as he made equal rights his life’s work, King would use his own assets and nonviolent philosophy to organize hundreds of rallies and marches across the nation.
Though abused and imprisoned, he continued teaching and practicing nonviolence. Overall, King was arrested 30 times for his participation in civil rights activities.
On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people of all races, religions, and political affiliations gathered in Washington, D.C., for the “March for Jobs and Freedom.” Speaking from the Lincoln Memorial, King delivered what was to become his most famous speech --- “I Have a Dream.”
The march far exceeded the expectations of its organizers, bridging the gap between competing groups of Americans and addressing the conscience of a nation.
According to its planners, the march succeeded because it embraced the essence of equality and justice --- the most enduring and basic of American values.
The following year, at the age of 35, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the youngest man in history, and the third black man, to receive the award.
On April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray assassinated King who was standing on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn. He was to lead sanitation workers in a protest for better working conditions and wages.