“Think for a moment how unsettling it must have been in the 1950s and 1960s to be turned away ... to see white-only-drinking fountains and white-only rest rooms. How would it have felt to not be able to swim at a pool? I would not have been a good sport about that.”

Loretta Young, keynote speaker at this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration in Lewisburg, spoke about the trials and tribulations of black America during the ugly days of Jim Crow laws and when separate but equal ruled the land.

Young, executive director of the Concord University Foundation, then fast-forwarded and told a group of about 200 gathered at the Lewisburg United Methodist Church Monday the importance of “uniting together” as the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, is inaugurated today.

“I believe do you believe?” she asked. “We cannot help but be excited, but the election of the first black president was not all that Martin Luther King envisioned. There’s much more to do ... so that the land of opportunity will truly be equal for all of us.”

Earlier in the day, more than 100 individuals marched through the streets of Lewisburg carrying signs and singing hymns to commemorate and keep King’s dream alive. Mary Clapham, 13, of Lewisburg, said the parade was symbolic of the struggles that blacks have lived through in America.

“I walked in the parade (Monday) in order to remember the speech that Martin Luther King made so that everyone could be free,” she said.

The Rev. Nelson Staples III said celebrating King’s birthday on Monday and having the nation’s first black president sworn-in the following day is a special moment in our nation’s history.

“It’s a day that has been long sought after and long awaited because of the many centuries that have gone on where we have risen as a black people from chattel, to three-fifths human to citizenship; we have been at times, I’m sure, like looking at the heavens and asking, ‘God. don’t you care that we perish?’”

Staples added, “God has now opened the window and allowed this opportunity to take place for all of us to be together as one.”

Staples also said King’s legacy needs to be continued and no one should rest on their laurels, especially now.

“I believe it’s going to take all of us. If only everybody would embrace the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity,” he said. “Because we truly are one blood. I believe the Bible and it says we are one blood. I will believe it till the day I die. We are all members of the same family and this is just peaking forth the tip of the iceberg with Obama’s inauguration.”

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

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