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State employees in harmony on MLK's legacy, but more still to do

Posted January 13

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— State employees raised their voices in harmony Friday at the annual prayer service in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Black and white, young and old listened to the chorus of the State Employees Choir and speeches from Gov. Roy Cooper and Dr. Everett Ward, president of Saint Augustine's University, at the First Baptist Church on South Wilmington Street.

For a day, people of varied ethnic backgrounds joined for a single purpose: to remember the minister, activist, father, husband and civil rights leader on the 88th anniversary of his birth.

But if King were present, he would see that a single day is not enough.

Children in North Carolina still go hungry, Ward told the gathering.

"You cannot honor Dr. King and sit in silence and see these children in poverty," he said.

Americans elected a black man as president, yet Ward reminded listeners that hundreds of young black men were murdered in gun violence in Chicago last year.

"That's where Dr. King would be marching today," Ward said "He would not be in an ivory tower, sitting in a loft somewhere, sipping champagne and looking at Van Gogh. He would be out in the streets of America, fighting for the people!"

The state employees' annual event includes an honor – the Doctor John R. Larkins Award, named after a former state employee and race-relations advocate, for exemplifying a commitment to equality and improving race and ethnic relations. This year's winner was Dr. Clarence Godley, who raised money to help a colleague battling lymphoma.

On Saturday, Raleigh will reopen the renovated MLK Gardens. Fayetteville will hold a parade in King's honor. It will begin at noon at the Cumberland County Courthouse and will proceed down Person and Hay streets.

The federal holiday in celebration of MLK comes Monday, as does the annual Martin Luther King Triangle Interfaith Prayer Breakfast.
The free event will be held at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Research Triangle Park, starting at 7:15 a.m. It is open to the public, and it will be available on WRAL.com.

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