Civil rights meetings must have been interesting, DSU head says

By Lynn R. Parks

Harry Williams, president of Delaware State University, estimates that in his 26 years in education, he has attended more than 5,000 meetings. But he told the audience at Mondays M.L.K. Day of Celebration breakfast that there are even more meetings that have taken place that he would like to have attended.

I wish that I could have been at that meeting in 1950 when the Delaware General Assembly decided to open the William C. Jason High School in Georgetown and name it after the first president of Del State, he said. Jason High was the first secondary school for African-Americans in Sussex County.

I wish that I could have been at that meeting in 1955 when Rosa Parks decided that she was not going to get up out of that bus seat, Williams continued. I wish that I could have been at that meeting between John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, when they decided to make a personal call to get Martin Luther King Jr. released from a prison in Birmingham, Ala.

I wish that I could have been there when people were planning the March on Washington 50 years ago, a march attended by 200,000 people. I wish I could have been in Memphis in April 1968, when Dr. King was writing his final speech, in which he said that hed been to the mountaintop.

And I wish that I could have been there when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. All of these things have combined to allow Barack Obama to be president of this country today.

Williams was the keynote speaker at the breakfast, held at Heritage Shores in Bridgeville. He was introduced to the audience by Desi Moore, whose son, Jamil, is a student at Del State. During Williams four years at the school, she said, Del State has improved its academic programs. In U.S. News and World Reports 2014 rankings of colleges, it was ranked ninth among the countrys 81 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, up from 13th in the 2013 rankings.

Williams said that it is worthwhile to recognize Kings legacy and the things that he pushed for for our country. He added, If he was still alive today and he walked into this room, he would be smiling to see that we are all here together, as brothers and sisters.

Master of ceremonies, Pat Jones, said that drawing the community together is part of the purpose of the breakfast. She said that she was pleased to see people of different races there. But she added that she would like to see more white and Hispanic faces in the audience.

She said that she would also like to have more children attend the program.

It is important for us to continue Dr. Kings legacy, she said. He struggled for progress, and it is important for us to understand that without struggle, there will be no progress.

The theme of this years breakfast was 50 Years and Counting, referring to the 50 years that have passed since the 1963 March on Washington. The program included creative dance by a two-woman troupe, Gospel Creation, singing by Alberta Smith and a tribute to King written and performed by Terence Moore.

Brenda Whitehurst, who recently retired from the YWCA Delawares Center for Womens Entrepreneurship and is corporate and community coordinator for the Adult Plus program at Delaware Technical and Community College in Georgetown, was given the M.L.K. Community Recognition Award. The focus of her career has been the empowerment of women through business assessment, business plan development and the creation of women-led sustainable enterprises.

Whitehurst said that it is important to celebrate the memory of King, who she called a man of vision.

Without vision, we will perish, she said. We will be successful if we surround ourselves with people of like-mindedness, people with a vision.

She told the audience that there are four kinds of people in the world. There are people who make it happen. People who watch it happen. People who wonder what happened. And people who dont know that anything happened. I encourage you to be the first kind. Make things happen.

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