Students receive scholarships at MLK program in Copperas Cove
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Committee held its 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at Bible Way Missionary Baptist Church Monday afternoon.
The theme of this year’s program was “Hope In Action”. The program is normally kicked off with a Unity March prior to the service, but this year, the committee ran into logistical issues and cancelled the march. Committee Chair Angela Lewis said that the march would definitely return next year, though.
The program featured guest speaker Rev. Roscoe C. Harrison, Jr., pastor of the Eighth Street Baptist Church in Temple and former community affairs director for the Scott and White Healthcare System’s Center for Healthcare Policy.
Harrison has a long career in broadcast and print journalism, becoming the first African American reporter for the Temple Daily Telegram and the San Antonio Express-News in 1966 and 1967 and the first African American television news anchor for KCEN-TV in 1970. In 1968, Harrison became the associate editor of JET Magazine in Chicago and participated in the coverage of several major news events, including the death and funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The magazine’s coverage of King’s funeral won them a Pulitzer Prize in 1969.
Harrison began his speech sharing of the time he met King, just one month before his death when he stopped by the JET Magazine offices to visit with an old friend in March.
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 at the age of 39 in Memphis, Tennessee, a day after speaking to sanitation workers.
Harrison called this speech of King’s his valedictorian address.
In King’s speech, he told the striking sanitation workers that he had been to the mountain top and had seen the Promised Land.
“Dr. King said he had seen the promised land, but would he be satisfied in 2020 with the way that the road had been paved for us?” Harrison asked. “Basic rights that he fought for, long and hard over a 13-year period from 1955 to 1968 have been achieved, but what would Dr. King think about today in 2020?”
Harrison listed several firsts for African Americans- from Colin Powell becoming the first Secretary of State, followed by Condoleeza Rice, the first African American woman, to Wallace Jefferson, the first African American to serve on the Texas Supreme Court, and Barbara Jordan, the first African American and African American woman elected to the Texas Senate.
“I know that Dr. King would be pleased and he would be proud, and he would definitely be pleased with how much African-Americans have accomplished in the last four decades and the number of black college graduates and teachers and doctors and lawyers and other profession; and most of all, he would be proud of the fact that we elected the first African American president of the United States Barack Obama, but if Dr. King was alive today, I feel that he would still think that there’s a lot of work to do,” Harrison said. “I don’t think that he would be pessimistic, but I think he would be optimistic. He never gave up. Dr. King was famous for saying that he hoped that his own children would live in a world where they could involve themselves and be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, and I know he would be shocked and angered about how many black children still don’t have equal chances to succeed in our country.”
Harrison mentioned a “cradle to prison pipeline” and stated that although they represent just 34 percent of the U.S. adolescent population, minority youths make up 60 percent of the population in juvenile detention facilities.
“I think Dr. King would see this pipeline for what it is: a tragic and unnecessary loss of our children’s potential that we can fix, and we must change if our hard earned racial progress that we’ve made over the years is not to be undermined, and I think Dr. King would respond with every resource he and available beginning with the basic tools that we had back even in the 1960s- voter registration and participation, which some of us take for granted today,” Harrison said.
Harrison added that King would likely work with community leaders and give speeches and sermons and work with organizations that “demonstrate unity within our community.”
“Our churches are going to have to take a greater role, not only in spiritual development but the educational progress of our children,” Harrison said. “Remember, the Civil Rights Movement started in a church.”
Harrison went on to point out the changes that have happened in the 21st century, especially the integration of every race.
“More of us share neighborhoods and work and school and social activities, religious lives, even love and marriage across racial lines than ever before, and more of us can understand the benefits of our racial and linguistic colorful diversity in this global society that we live in, where networks of commerce and communications draw us closer than ever before,” Harrison said. “Our diversity has enriched our lives, in nonmaterial ways and deepened our understanding of human nature and human differences, making our community more exciting, making our communities more enjoyable and meaningful.
Harrison went on to encourage the audience of how the world must be with people of all races having the freedoms granted just by living in this country.
“The cause of our fallen heroes must be our cause too. It must be our cause to create a greater vision and to evolve into a new horizon,” Harrison said. “Let Dr. King peer from the mountain top and see a new meaning of his dream, a new vision.”
Following Harrison’s speech, the MLK Commemoration Committee presented the scholarships to this year’s six recipients.
Committee Chair Angela Lewis was a recipient in 2015 and said she was glad the program focused on scholarships for local students because education was so important to King.
“He wasn’t just a great speaker- everything that he did was a very planned, calculated thing, and that was likely because he was a very educated man, and so I just think that to be able to honor him but also have this heavy emphasis on education is a really nice ode to things that he valued, and so I think it’s just really an honor to be able to do that for our community,” Lewis said.
The Gold winner, of a $1,000 scholarship, was Killeen High School senior Deniss Moreno, who plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin and major in education in order to teach high school mathematics.
The Silver winners included Harker Heights High School seniors Saniya Keeton and Isabelle Dela Cruz, and Ellison High School Senior Taylor Boquiren. Keeton attends the Texas Bioscience Institute at Temple College and plans to major in Veterinary Sciences at either Tuskegee University or McNeese University. Dela Cruz plans to attend Texas A&M University and pursue a major in biology and a minor in nutrition. Boquiren attends the Texas Bioscience Institute at Temple College and plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin and major in biology and minor in psychology.
The Bronze winners were Copperas Cove High School seniors Kimberly Cimmino and Richard Kirkpatrick. Cimmino plans to attend the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor and pursue a degree in nursing. Kirkpatrick plans to attend Texas A&M University and study engineering to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.