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The Rev. Rudolph Poindexter, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Beckley, speaks to the crowd during the Raleigh County branch of the NAACP annual celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday evening.

Forty-five years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech — during which he said blacks in America are exiles in their own land — the country elected its first black president.

A Beckley pastor says King would be proud to see that day happen, but he would be saddened to see what he has called a decline in moral and family values since that day at the Lincoln Memorial.

The Raleigh County branch of the NAACP had its annual celebration honoring King Sunday evening at Second Baptist Church in Beckley. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Rudolph Poindexter, was the guest speaker for the program called “Changing the Course of History.”

One serious part of the current course of history that needs changed, Poindexter said, is an overall decline in family and moral values. These include children being exposed to mature themes in entertainment and recent corporate practices that have angered many citizens.

Themes such as sex and violence in song lyrics, he said, are leading to a moral decline with young people, he said. This is evident even in some cartoons. Video games including this — plus ones in which the game’s object is committing violent crime — are also leading to that decline.

“You can see it,” Poindexter said. “It’s terrible. You can get a young kid, 2 or 3 years old, bobbing their head to these nasty lyrics.

“...You have games where people are robbing, and there’s blood and gore. Our kids are experiencing this at a very, very young age. When you’re talking about the mind of a child before he’s 6 years old, that can do great damage to him as far as his abilities to decipher between good and evil. Some are not able to do that, at that age.”

Some practices of the penal system, Poindexter said, are not helping, either. He said prisons offer job training, but those released cannot get jobs because of their criminal records.

“It’s a farce: rehabilitation,” he said. “(The system) advocates recidivism.”

He encouraged breaks for industries or private businesses that would give former inmates who have proved themselves jobs and a chance to redeem themselves.

If King were alive today, Poindexter said, he would be saddened to see young people not take advantage of opportunities offered to them. This is coming after a great struggle, in which many people lost their lives. He would also advocate taking action during the current economic crisis. One of King’s chief concerns was people — of all races — living in poverty.

Poindexter emphasized he is not advocating socialism, but the way some corporations do business should be examined. He pointed to some of the recent Wall Street controversies and said there was too much greed and corruption. The pharmaceutical industry, he said, has overly pushed its products on patients.

“Dr. King would look at that and say a lot of that needs to be changed,” Poindexter said. “He would be lobbying and fighting in Congress. He would be fighting big business — big time.”

But King would also be proud of progress made, too, Poindexter said. One major point of progress has been the nation electing its first black president, Barack Obama. Obama’s election, he said, is an inspiration to anyone who may have believed their goals were impossible to achieve. This would apply to people of any race.

“I believe this will give them a more positive outlook and hope to many who would have gone the other way — down a negative path — to reach goals they felt were impossible. ... For Hispanics, African-Americans and many poor whites, this shows anything is possible here in America. ... This could affect people as a whole, not just African-Americans.

“Our society once advocated segregation and slavery and not to let African-Americans ever accomplish such a position. Yes, this is an inspiration to children of all races — white, black, Greeks, Italians — and they can benefit from the fact that this man has been elected.”

Poindexter said he also views King as a prophet. During his own time in the seminary, he was told a person can be defined as a prophet if what the person says will happen becomes reality. Based on “I Have a Dream” alone, he believes this is true. Now, people of all races work, live and worship together.

Beckley at-large Councilman Cedric Robertson addressed the crowd during the ceremony’s beginning. He praised national progress, citing Obama’s election. Locally, three of the seven Beckley Common Council members are black. But he said society still has a long way to go.

“Dr. King said, ‘We are not makers of history. We are made by history,’” Robertson said.

— E-mail: apridemore@register-herald.com

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