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News | Jan. 19, 2021

FRCSW Celebrates 35th Annual MLK Commemoration

By Jim Markle

VIRIN: 210119-N-XZ252-0086

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) and Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) personnel joined to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., January 14.

Hosted by Naval Air systems Command (NAVAIR), the National African-American Pipeline Advisory Team Committee and Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Service Command (NATEC), FRCSWs 35th annual commemoration was held virtually this year via Microsoft Teams.

The event kicked off with opening remarks by FRCSW Commanding Officer Capt. Steven Leehe who spoke of King's enduring impact upon the world and his work to unify all people.

"Dr. King was an inspiration for all of America and the world, and was representative of how to affect and project change," Capt. Leehe said. "He is still the man who encouraged us to come out of the corner to meet in middle; to realize that we must all win, or surely, we will all lose. May we always protect and honor his legacy."

Guest speaker Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, who is a member of the San Diego Unified School Board and a former mathematics teacher and human resources manager, followed Leehe and referenced one of King's most famous quotes:

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?" 

"What are you doing? What are you giving back?" she said. "You can contribute and add something to better your community, and it doesn't matter what economic status you are, you can achieve. No matter where or who you are, you can make a difference; it's as easy as going to your local school board and volunteering."

Throughout his life, King not only worked to change society at the time but also strove to ensure his children and future generations would live in a world where social justice, freedom and equality were common values realized and shared by all. 

"Every child wants to achieve," Dr. Whitehurst-Payne said. "See children as anyone with goals and desires and connect with them. They will communicate; speak to them as adults and see them as yourself, put yourself in that position. Offer them a word of encouragement, that's what Dr. King was about."

Since 1986, the holiday honoring King is observed the third Monday of each January, and serves as a reminder of the struggle achieved through peaceful means to ensure racial equality and civil rights for all Americans.

In 1955, black seamstress Rosa Parks took a front seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus. When told to vacate the seat for a white passenger she refused. Parks, who died at age 92 on October 24, 2005, was arrested for violating the transportation segregation laws of Montgomery.

Saying the lives of black Americans were sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and discrimination, King used the incident to lead others in a peaceful boycott of the bus company.

Parks' arrest and the boycott gained national attention and in less than six months, the federal courts had declared transportation segregation laws unconstitutional.

Other civil rights activists throughout the country adopted King's methods, and the Civil Rights Movement began.

Though abused and imprisoned, King continued to advocate and practice nonviolence. Overall, he was arrested 30 times for participating in civil rights activities.

On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people of all races, religions, and political affiliations gathered in Washington, D.C., for the March for Jobs and Freedom. Speaking from the Lincoln Memorial, King delivered what was to become his most famous speech --- "I Have a Dream."

The march succeeded because it embraced the essence of equality and justice --- the most enduring and basic of American values.

The following year, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35. He was the youngest man in history, and the third black man, to receive the award.

On April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray assassinated King who was standing on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn., where he was to lead sanitation workers in a protest for better working conditions and wages.

King would have been 91 years-old this year. He was born in Atlanta, Ga., January 15, 1929.


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