The Rev. Walter J. Arrington served up a helping of frank talk during Thursday's 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.
The Rev. Walter J. Arrington served up a helping of frank talk with Thursday’s breakfast.
The chairman of the Greater Canton Martin Luther King Jr. Commission delivered the keynote address at its 20th annual breakfast held at the McKinley Grand Hotel.
Arrington told the capacity crowd that when opportunity is denied to one segment of citizens, it hurts the nation as a whole.
He recalled that when King was assassinated in 1968, “It was as though all hell broke loose in my mind, heart and spirit. Dr. King was somebody who was making headway for us in an unfriendly world.
“...Lest we forget, it’s important to remember that less than 50 years ago, there was a darkness over America, particularly in relationships between black folks and white folks.”
Arrington said it’s absurd for people to pretend that they don’t notice another person’s race, and despite its racial divisions, “Dr. King saw a great America.”
However, Arrington cautioned against arrogance.
“I’ve heard people say that America is the greatest country on Earth, and while I may not disagree with that statement, I cringe when I hear it,” he said. “It’s not because I don’t think so. I cringe because it smacks of arrogance and selfishness. I cringe because every empire in history has come to demise. It suggests we’re not part of the world culture; we’re in the world culture. As a significant part of it, we have the potential of becoming greater than we are.”
Arrington said denying blacks opportunity based solely on race ignores their contributions to America’s development and hampers the nation’s ability to reach its full potential. But he also called on blacks to shoulder more responsibility for their lives.
“We ought never to be in a recession because of the resources available to us,” he said. “I believe we’re missing a significant part of our greatness (when) we deny some of our resources for our use. In my house, everybody contributes.”
Mayor William J. Healy II, who delivered a proclamation to recognize the commission’s anniversary, told the audience that King was proof that one person can make a difference.
“Not just during his lifetime, but here we are, decades later, hearing his words, feeling his thoughts and (pursuing) his dream,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, remarked that although King was one of the most widely-quoted figures in American history, “What endeared him to most people was his decision to do what was right ... He was an inspirational and genuine leader for a cause that all Americans should support.”
The commission also awarded scholarships to McKinley graduates Omari K. Moore, a student at the University of Chicago, and Raquel L. Robinson-Poulson, a student at the University of Akron, and Ashley D. Stevens, a GlenOak alumnus and graduate student at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
Page 2 of 2 - Service awards were given to the Gentlemen’s Club of St. Paul AME Church (business), Nadine McIllwain-Massey (education), the Rev. Eric C. Johnson (religion) and Diane Stevens Robinson (community). Commission program adviser Brenda Stevens also was honored.