The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a virtual event on Monday morning, which premiered on its YouTube channel.
The virtual celebration featured prerecorded videos of the UNC Gospel Choir, an interview with School of Law professor and Center for Civil Rights Director Theodore M. Shaw, a poem by speaker Soteria Shepperson and more.
Rev. Clarke French, fifth rector of the Church of the Holy Family, helped organize the virtual event through the Religious Affairs Committee of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP. French also conducted the interview with Shaw.
“Each year, we’re charged with coming up with a program on MLK Day,” he said. “It was a really fun project to bring everyone together. We all recorded at different times, and the service was edited together.”
During a career spanning nearly three decades as a lawyer, Shaw litigated cases on education, housing, capital punishment and voting rights. From 1979 to 1982, he litigated civil rights cases throughout the country at various levels, including in the U.S. Supreme Court, as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.
Shaw joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1982.
In an interview with The Daily Tar Heel, Shaw spoke about honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy, while also recognizing that some of the same issues are still present today.
“We remember the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., and we also put that in the context of the continuation of the struggle for civil and human rights,” he said.
Shaw said that in thinking about certain events that have taken place, such as attacks on synagogues and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, it’s important to continue to push back against injustice.
“These things that I’ve talked about will continue to happen if we don’t affirmatively continue the struggle for civil and human rights,” Shaw said. “It doesn’t happen surreptitiously. This is a fight, this is a struggle.”
The interview with Shaw was recorded on Jan. 5 , and all other segments of the video project were recorded on Monday and Tuesday of last week. Though the video project had many moving parts and had to be edited together for the event, French said it was important to find a way to gather for the day.
French said it was a privilege to speak with Shaw.
“I’m always humbled when I get to spend time with folks who have lived, worked and advocated during those important years of the civil rights movement,” French said. “I wanted to know from him where he saw hope and bright lights ahead of him in the work that’s underway now.”
Orange County Commissioner Anna Richards said it was particularly tough to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year because of present-day struggles with civil rights.
“So many of the things that Dr. King stood for and worked for and fought for, we’re watching disintegrate before our eyes,” she said. “His family has suggested this year that we commemorate him by urging for passage of voting rights legislation that’s currently stalled in Congress.”
Martin Luther King III, eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr., called upon Congress to pass voting rights legislation in a press conference on Monday in Washington, D.C.
Richards said it’s important to be mindful of the value of democracy, freedom and liberty for all Americans, and that everyone has a role to play.
“One of the things that professor Shaw said today is that he chooses hope, not despair,” she said. “Once you choose hope, then you are hopefully committed to do some actions to help bring about the desired outcome that you are hoping for.”
Other events in Carrboro for the holiday included a youth-planned service on Jan. 15 and a community park clean up that was rescheduled to Sunday, Jan. 30.
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