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Personal principals, sacrifice focus of MKL luncheon tribute

The hall at Holy Ghost Church on Bethlehem’s Southside was full on the morning of Jan. 15 with a crowd gathered to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Attending were U.S. Congresswoman Susan Wild, D-7th, J. William Reynolds, mayor of Bethlehem, Lamont McClure, Northampton County executive, Dr. Joseph Roy, superintendent of Bethlehem’s schools and five members of the Bethlehem Police Department including Michelle Kott, the chief of police.

Also present were senior citizens, some in their 80s, a large number of students from Liberty High School and several very young babies.

The place was packed, to put it mildly – young and old, White and Black, public and private citizens who came to pay their respects to the memory of a man who would be celebrating his 94th birthday if he had been allowed to live so long.

Presiding over the celebration was the president of Bethlehem’s chapter of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Esther M. Lee. Under her direction, an agenda chiefly of speeches and songs moved quickly. The tone was set at the start by Liberty High School’s four-person color guard, who marched to the front of the hall carrying the stars and stripes and then led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the national anthem.

King’s personal principles and sacrifice would be front and center throughout the morning’s activities, but, as the color guard showed, patriotism and what it means to be American were the deep issues.

Highlights of the morning’s events included moving performances by Liberty’s chorus of several hymns, especially the song so closely associated with the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.”

The chorus was led by its director, Julie Wydrzynski. Also, two students read their prizewinning essays on the topic, “How Would Dr. King Address the Problem of Homelessness Today?”

Under Lee’s good-humored but firm leadership, visiting politicians managed to keep their speeches to a limit of two minutes, more or less.

To conclude a stirring and interesting morning, members of the audience were invited to enjoy bag lunches, cookies and cold drinks as guests of the Bethlehem NAACP.

PRESS PHOTOS BY DENNIS GLEW Daryl Wilson, a student at Liberty High School, is joined at the celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by his uncle, Kevin Gray. Daryl was one of the winners of an essay competition.
Beginning after they were freed during the Civil War, African-Americans have served in the U.S. armed services in disproportionately high numbers compared to their part of the general population. John C. Betts of Bethlehem, who completed several tours in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne, wears insignia honoring the service of Black soldiers from the days of the Buffalo Soldiers.
Bethlehem Mayor Willy Reynolds chats with the Sobrinski family, of Bethlehem, including daughter Zoe, right, who was a winner of the Bethlehem NAACP essay contest.
PRESS PHOTOS BY DENNIS GLEW With a drum tapping out the pace and the audience standing at attention, the Liberty High School Color Guard marches to the front of the gathering, to lead the group in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Does the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day have a future? We're looking at it. Alexander Joyner, right and his partner, Margarita Barreto, bring their son, Seven Joyner, to pay his respects to the great American. They'll be back, they said.
Unique Small, I., a special education teacher at Donegan Elementary School and Azariah Drungo, a student at Liberty High School, join others in serving bagged lunches and cookies to guests who choose to stay for lunch and fellowship after the celebration.