WEST POINT — The NAACP’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration this year had the theme “passing the legacy to the next generation,” and it displayed that idea with a performance by young actors and singers.
Elijah Parham, a 2014 graduate of Sound Doctrine Christian Academy, put together the performance piece in just two weeks. He unveiled it to the crowd during Monday’s event at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
“It was (nerve-wracking),” admitted Nicholas Trammell, 18, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in the performance. “But it was well-worth it. I enjoyed it.”
The Callaway High School student responded to a post on Facebook for the role.
“It was a new experience for me,” he said.
The performance featured a series of scenes, some centered around King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, as he privately struggled with fear and doubts about taking center stage in the civil rights movement. It also included songs and re-creations of King’s speech following the Selma march and the famous “I have a dream” speech in Washington, D.C.
“We put this all together in just two weeks,” Parham told the audience after the performance. “I think (the performers) did a great job.”
Pastor Chalton Askew, who closed the celebration with a litany and benediction, took a moment to speak about Parham’s passion to create the performance on short notice for the program.
“… He came to share with us his vision. He sold us,” Askew said. “… He says, ‘All I need is a cast.’ … He was confident he could present something tonight to us, and what a fine job Elijah did.”
During closing remarks, Ernest Ward, president of the Troup County NAACP, took a serious tone as he addressed the crowd about the need to help pass the legacy to the next generation through pushing for change. Ward, a former principal, alleged that the lowest performing elementary schools in Troup County are majority African-American and students from low-income households. The highest performing are mostly Caucasian and high-income households, he told the crowd.
The youth now do not have the same access to education as recent generations, he said. It makes it difficult for educators to help the students that need it the most when they are concentrated in certain schools. He called it “inexcusable in 2016,” and said a more diverse environment in schools can help lift up the lower performing students.
“The environment that has been created will steal, kill and destroy the legacy for the next generation,” Ward said.
The presence of God allows people to change their environment, he told the crowd. Using an analogy, he said people typically serve as thermometers to their community, only telling the temperature, but should serve as a thermostat, which has the ability to change its environment.
“You see, there was a question that was asked (in John 12:21) by a group of men who wanted to see Jesus,” Ward said. “They went and found Jesus’ disciples, and … they said, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’”
“These kids from these low-income schools, these kids that are not able to get these jobs, how often have they said, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’ to our leaders?” Ward continued. “… It was amazing, because Jesus had a response … and Jesus said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you … except a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it dies alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.’ The reason we are not the thermostat God wishes us to be, is because we are not willing to die — to sprout on the inside.”
Matthew Strother is the editor of LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2153.