IW NAACP ceremony marks Martin Luther King’s 95th birthday on MLK Day

Published 7:01 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

A celebration of what would have been the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 95th birthday drew nearly 50 attendees to Main Street Square in front of The Smithfield Times building on Jan. 15 despite near-freezing rain. 

The Isle of Wight County NAACP partnered with the Rev. K.D. Shivers of Solomon’s Temple Church and Shivers Funeral Chapel to host the Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony, which included remarks by Shivers, music performed by Phyllis Wellons and James Ford, and presentations by two Smithfield High School students.

“As we reflect on (King’s) life and legacy today, let us remember that the fight for justice and equality is far from over,” Shivers said. “We must continue to work together to build a more just and equitable society where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.”

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Cierra Payne, a junior at Smithfield High, read a summary of King’s life as a Baptist minister and civil rights leader. Shawn Pleasants, also a Smithfield High junior, then recited a 1967 speech by King in which he warned of “three major evils” in American society: racism, poverty and war. The NAACP set up a tent on the lawn near the stage to encourage and assist with voter registration – for which King had tirelessly advocated ahead of the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for championing nonviolent resistance to racial discrimination and was assassinated on April 4, 1968.