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A call for action: Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day


The One Human Family Choir performing at the Chapel Hill-Carboro NAACP Annual Service in Commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Jan 16, 2023.

“My dream is that one day soon I will find a way to stop just celebrating the dream and start living it," attendees at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP's annual service celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day said.

About 100 guests gathered at First Baptist Church on Monday for the event.

This call-and-response portion of the service — in which the Reverend Dr. Michael Cousin prompted the audience to read from distributed programs — echoed many of the ideas that various speakers, performers and pastors at the event wanted to convey. 

“My message today was a sense of duty,” Dawna Jones, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP , said. “I'm asking people to truly lean into their sense of duty — to not have to be asked to not have to be told, but to step up where injustice is.”  

Jones closed out the service with a call to action, in which she said there are many needs in the Black community, mentioning issues such as a lack of support for Black youth and the Black housing crisis.  

She said there is a need to start holding people accountable.    

Jones also awarded the NAACP Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award to James Williams, citing that he has contributed significantly to the local community through criminal justice reform, his work to support Black students who are unfairly disciplined in school and more.                          

“We are proud to have him as a member of our community and a member of our branch,” Jones said. 

Williams was born on April 26, 1951, in Plymouth, North Carolina, and lived through the Jim Crow era.  

“By the age of 10 or 11, I was out in the street marching and protesting with those who were fighting the battle for racial justice and equality,” he said.      

He said he started at Plymouth High School in 1965 and was one of about 30 Black students who integrated into the newly desegregated institution. 

Williams went on to attend Duke University. Though it was not always easy, he said the "quest for justice and freedom from inequality" sustained him during times when his motivation wavered.    

 “As Frederick Douglass said, and Dr. King said slightly differently, power concedes nothing without a struggle,” Williams said. “I wanted to be a part of that struggle, and I'm still a part of that struggle.”   

Jones also mentioned the importance of youth and the role they can play in supporting the Black community.  

“I think UNC students are some of the brightest that we have amongst our community, who can always lift up their voices around supporting others and can use their intellect, their privilege, their knowledge and their means, if they have them, to support the community,” she said.                   

Jones also said UNC senior Greear Webb, the keynote speaker at the event, exemplified these values. 

Webb’s speech, titled “Don't Play with the Dream,” was met with a standing round of applause from all the event's guests.   

“I discussed not playing with the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. — the dream of equity and liberation and accountability,” Webb said. He said his three main points were that dreaming is hard — especially for marginalized people — that dreaming is better when it's done together and that dreaming is “for you." 

Webb is a member of the Black Student Movement at UNC and the director of social justice at Sidekicks Academy, a Durham-based non-profit that teaches elementary school students taekwondo and strategies to improve mental health.    

“I would say we have a duty as young people to live not only Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream, but each of our own dreams,” he said. “So, we should hold one another accountable, we should love one another and we should really act as the leaders that our community needs us to be.”  

@DELCRAWL @DTHCityState   

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