MLK observance speaker talks of 'dreams and nightmares'
The 47th annual Allegheny-Kiski Valley Memorial Service for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in New Kensington on Sunday had moments of woe and optimism.
Its designated speaker, the Rev. Glenn Grayson of Wesley Zion A.M.E. Church in Pittsburgh, personified the ceremony's emotional dichotomy with a speech that focused on “dreams and nightmares.”
Three years removed from his son being fatally shot in Pittsburgh's Hill District, Grayson spoke sullenly about the great divides he sees in America based on race, class and gender — a part of an “American nightmare” that he says disenfranchises the lower class.
But as the Jeron X. Grayson Community Center in the same neighborhood moves closer to its opening dedication, Grayson spoke buoyantly of Martin Luther King Jr.'s work, how far the African-American community has made strides and how it “continues to work toward his dream.”
“It's so important that we honor the legacy of Dr. King and continue to strive toward his vision,” he said. “Almost 50 years later, you would think that his speeches would be somewhat antiquated. Unfortunately, I believe they're still very relevant, and today's youth face a lot of the same challenges as previous generations.”
The Allegheny Valley Association of Churches, which hosts the event at a different Alle-Kiski church each year, uses the annual ceremony as a means of bolstering the youth with a scholarship bearing Dr. King's name.
At the ceremony in Abundant Life Fellowship Church along Kenneth Avenue, the 60 or so attendees contributed about $1,200 to the scholarship fund, according to program chairwoman Aarie Holt-Scruggs. The contributions are added to about $1,600 collected this year through personal and business donations, Holt-Scruggs said.
The fund is used to grant scholarships each year to low-income, mostly minority high school students in the Alle-Kiski Valley that are planning to continue their education with higher learning. Scholarship recipients may attend private or public high schools. Their selected institution of higher learning can be a traditional college or vocational school.
The number of recipients vary each year based on applications received and funds raised, Holt-Scruggs said. Last year, the association of churches granted seven scholarships totaling about $3,500.
The organization is accepting applications and contributions through April, when it names the 2014 winners. Holt-Scruggs said the annual King memorial service is the largest fundraiser of the year and the association typically receives about 15 applications.
The Rev. E. Phillip Wilson, a retired Methodist minister and former director of Highlands Community Action Center, has been involved in the annual scholarship and memorial service since its 1968 inception after the assassination. He said one of the ancillary goals of the program has been to bring Alle-Kiski places of worship together with keynote speakers who embody the principles that King preached.
“When we started this thing in the 1960s, the churches in Westmoreland County seemed like another world from where we were in Allegheny County,” Wilson said. “We wanted to bring everyone together. That's what Dr. King would have liked to see happen.”
The Allegheny Valley Association of Churches has chosen speakers from all types of faiths and backgrounds to promote King's message. Grayson was chosen this year, in part, for his efforts to promote social justice and eradicate youth violence.
The pastor runs a public after-school program in the Hill District and spearheads an anti-gun violence task force in the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network in honor of his late son.
“When we put down the guns and stop the hate in every city, in every state,” Grayson said, “we will be free at last.”
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lower Burrell sewer projects will cost millions
- Highlands to reassess bus contract
- Tarentum Council will auction railway station
- Route 56 overnight closures postponed again
- Couple charged in Washington Township robbery, assault
- Hosannas for nonprofit helping to fix Tarentum man’s house
- Eaglets leaving the nest, but they’re not yet ready to strike out on their own
- Bridge replacement projects in A-K Valley sticking to schedule
- Mushing catches on in Alle-Kiski Valley
- New state regulations keep minors out of tanning salons
- Aspinwall native finds calling in priesthood, to be ordained Saturday in Pittsburgh