By Hailey Persinger
Killeen Daily Herald
Community members gathered Monday to celebrate what Killeen City Manager Connie Green called "a life that was not in vain."
The Killeen Community Center was filled with members of the city's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for the organization's annual tribute to slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
"Celebrating the Spirit of the Man and the Movement" gave community leaders the chance to share their memories of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and of their admiration for King, a prominent leader in that movement.
Though the main focus of the program was its speakers, it was sprinkled with song and dance performances from various community groups and members of the NAACP Youth Council, who took most of the reins when it came to planning Monday's event.
Involvement of youth in the tribute – and in the broader, continuing fight for equality for all – was a topic continually touched on in speeches and greetings. Though King was assassinated in April 1968, his legacy, though important to community elders, can only be carried on in one way, Killeen Mayor Tim Hancock told the crowd.
"If the legacy is going to continue," he said, "it must continue with our youth."
For the legacy, the dream, to continue to be a reality, those for whom King so valiantly fought must take full advantage of their rights, Hancock said.
Voting in upcoming elections – a right that was not afforded to black men and women until 1920 and free of literacy tests and other requirements until 1965 – is a way to hold firm to those rights that took so long to acquire.
"If you truly believe in his legacy, this is one thing you can do," he said. "You don't owe it to me, but you owe it to Mr. King."
During his keynote speech, Green periodically broke from his notes to look at members of the Youth Council. His impassioned plea with the panel of young people to keep King's memory and mission in mind encompassed the message of the two-hour tribute.
"Dr. King was a drum major for justice, a drum major for righteousness," Green said before asking the young people to his left to join the continuing march for equality. "Dr. King was an eternal optimist who held an ... audacious faith in mankind ... I wonder if those who slew the dreamer are aware that the dreams are alive today."
Contact Hailey Persinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcity.