By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most known advocates of nonviolence and one of the 20th century’s faces of social change, once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?”
On Jan. 16 Fort Knox celebrated and paid homage to King at Waybur Theater during the annual MLK observance and theme, “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On Not A Day Off!”
Maj. Gen. Jeff Smith, the commander of Cadet Command, said it was an important to recognize how King impacted the country to what it is today.
“What does it mean to the U.S. Army?” Smith asked. “(MLK) Day is celebrated on the third Monday (in January). We come together and use the day to help those in need. (MLK) was and is an iconic leader.”
He added that the Army has always strived to lead the nation in change. He used the example of the Army’s example of embracing all of its citizens by telling the story of Brooks Field.
The parade field is named in honor of Pvt. Robert Brooks, the first armor Soldier to die during World War II.
“(It) was unknown at that time (Brooks) was an African-American,” explained Smith. “The general (at that time) at Fort Knox was under a lot of pressure not to rename it (once Brooks’ heritage was learned and) the general said, ‘no.’
“Last year we brought (Brook’s) family (to Fort Knox) to rename (the parade field) in his honor.”
Smith said the day was special to him because he said he and his wife grew up during a time when schools were being desegregated in Columbus, Ga. Instead of attending a nearby high school they were bussed to a school whose students were all African-Americans. Smith said that experience made his wife who she is today and him being a two-star general.
“When you think about those decisions today and what it’s done to our country, the legacy Dr. King made and personal sacrifice made our country what it is today,” Smith said.
The guest speaker for the observance was the Rev. James Price Jr. Smith.
“Rev. Price was on campus (at Morehouse College in Atlanta) when King was killed and he spoke to (Coretta Scott) King that night,” Smith said.
Price began by quoting the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” He said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
Price said he could recall the worst of times.
“The separate facilities in department stores during those tumultuous years,” he recalled. “Me and my sister, one of the first to integrate schools in Atlanta, (were) told under no circumstances would we do as good in our new environment as our old environment.”
He also recalled the knockdowns, marches and demonstrations and said, “Yet in the midst of those years there was also the best of times—the hope.”
Price said he remembers when the separate facilities were eliminated and when his younger brother was the first African-American to integrate his elementary school in that area.
Although the time were turbulent and students were made to embrace change, Price said his classmates finally saw him for what he was—a human being.
“They began to see me as a classmate,” he said. “(I) was just as proud as they were to wear our school colors.”
A ray of light, he said, happened in 1963 when a dream was heard on the steps of the Lincoln Monument and the march spoke of the fulfillment of that dream.
But, he said, America experienced the worst of times on April 4, 1968 when King was assassinated.
“That night a group of us went to the King home and we found a sad but resilient spirit,” Price recalled. “(Mrs. King was ready) to grab the baton from her teammate and continue to run the race to victory.
“She requested the fraternity, (Alpha Phi Alpha), serve as the honor guard. Coretta Scott King had her own dream—to make sure the world would continue the dream.”
Price noted that July marks the golden anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act and although much work has been accomplished there is much work to be done.
“The prophet James wrote, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ We have dreamed, now it is time to wake up,” Price said. “Wake up and move to the accomplishments of men and women … we are part of the human race. We possess unlimited potential. I would like to thank the world of the future (it’s) filled with days of hope—(the best of times).”
Price ended with a scripture from Matthew 5:16: “Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.”