When Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity members from two chapters started their first Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Unity Breakfast in Aiken, they started with one scholarship award to a young man finishing his senior year in high school.
“Now, we have seven each year, and that means so much to us,” said Marvin Morrison, chairman of the event held at USC Aiken on Saturday. “We strive to do an outstanding job of working in the community and taking care of our young people.”
Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh brought greetings on behalf of the City of Aiken. The Alpha Phi Alpha chapters hosting the meeting were Omicron Tau Lambda and Sigma Tau. King was a member of the service organization, which led the effort to establish the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.
The guest speaker, the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers of Charleston, has held many NAACP offices, including director of the Southeast Region. He thanked all the Alpha Phi Alpha members for the opportunities they provide.
“I would challenge the Alphas all over the world,” Rivers said. “You have chosen to be keepers of the flame. But you can’t work once a year or the flame will burn out. Thank you for building an incredible monument and lifting up this celebration.”
King signature speech, “I Have a Dream,” is now in its 50th year, occurring at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963. Rivers described Joseph’s dreams in the Book of Genesis and how his brothers turned on him. In much the same way, King talked about dreams, but he also insisted on and proclaimed a future of equal justice.
Today, Rivers still marvels that he voted for a black man for president twice “and he won both times.” But Rivers said that King is now “acceptable” in collective memory, and that so many no longer understand the challenges he faced in another era.
Bryan Gordon, a North Augusta High senior, is one of the seven scholarship winners.
“It’s a blessing to be one of the seven students to receive the scholarships,” he said. “There are a lot of great people here, and the (Rivers’) speech brings home what Martin Luther King did for us.”
The other scholarship winners are Andre Walker, North Augusta High; Wayna Pridgen, Aiken High; Steadman Boston and Adrian Coleman, South Aiken High; Dejean Dunbar, Silver Bluff High; and Aaron Cook, Strom Thurmond High. All have excelled at their schools and are headed to college next fall.
“It feels good to have somebody else have such faith in me,” said Pridgen, who hopes to attend Wake Forest University and major in biology with the goal of becoming an anesthesiologist.
In the breakfast program, Omicron Tau Lambda President James Moton noted that King’s dream, too, was for all men to live in harmony and peace. A person should be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin.
“The MLK Memorial,” Moton said, “is a reminder to America of how far we have come as a nation. Let us never forget the sacrifice and continue to strive to live in peace and promote goodwill toward all men.”
When Denzell Moton was a youngster, he enjoyed being with his dad and other Alpha Phi Alpha members at many events. Now a junior at the College of Charleston, Denzell served as the emcee for Saturday’s event. He is an Alpha Phi Alpha member, as well.
“I was on the outside looking in before,” Denzell said. “I wanted to be here today and be beside my dad.”