The annual event celebrating the birth and life of Martin Luther King, Jr., began with a parade under cool, clear skies in Fayetteville Monday morning. The celebration sponsored by the Fayette County Branch of the NAACP continued at noon at Sams Auditorium and featured Morehouse College junior Justin L. Bryant.
The sixth annual parade began the day’s celebration, carrying the theme “Making the Dream Count.” The parade featured 40 entries with representation from bands and ROTC units from around metro Atlanta.
The event continued at the nearby Sams Auditorium where the 10th Annual Commemorative Program was presented before a packed auditorium.
The keynote speaker for the occasion was state NAACP Youth and College Division president and Morehouse College junior Justin L. Bryant. Providing constant humor along with his challenges to the youth in the audience, Bryant commented on his early career desires, noting that he had wanted to be rich and to get into a high-paying profession like medicine or engineering that could help him achieve that goal.
“But I decided to go into education,” he said, generating laughs from the audience. He used that platform to quickly make a much larger, and more serious, point to the room crowded with teenagers. “I want to encourage young people to choose a profession that you love. It takes hard work, like the Sandy Creek football championship or Noni Carter writing her book. I played piano at a young age but I wasn’t willing to put forth the discipline and the effort. Discipline is the restraint in the face of temptation.”
Bryant for the remainder of his brief remarks hammered home the idea that the willingness to succeed and the discipline that flows from it can effectively neutralize the temptation to forego the challenge that otherwise leads to success.
“You can be successful no matter who tells you that you can’t. Never give up. Never quit. Don’t let Georgia or the education system determine your future,” Bryant emphasized, noting the sometimes inopportune and negative predictions on later life that can be derived from standardized tests across the U.S. “And we can’t blame anyone for our failures. Be accountable for yourself and to yourself. I had no choice (about going to college). Momma told me I was going. Remember when choosing a career path it’s not just about you. You represent your family, your friends, your people and your nation.”
Bryant is also president of the NAACP Morehouse College Branch and is enrolled in the Morehouse College Honors Program. He is a member of the Golden Key Honor Society and on the dean’s list. A UPS Community Service Scholar, Bryant earned the honor by volunteering 300 community service hours at a local Atlanta elementary school.
Others at the celebration included sisters Camara Carter playing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Dara Carter playing and singing an original composition entitled “Thankful,” and “Good Fortune” author Noni Carter reading a poem and offering comments to the audience.
The MLK celebration was also an occasion for special recognition presentations, with a wide range of students receiving awards. Awards were given for 3rd grade essay winners, 3rd grade school attendance and for senior academic achievement for each high school. Also recognized was the state football championship Sandy Creek Patriots.
The celebration program also included remarks from Fayette County School System Superintendent John DeCotis, a proclamation presented by Fayette County Commission Chairman Jack Smith and a host of local NAACP branch officials.