The Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP hosted the area’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration on January 19 at Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church in Christiansburg.
Following a welcome by Mistress of Ceremonies Doris Kane and an invocation by the Rev. Jefferson Jones, the celebration opened with a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by Dr. Gena Chandler-Smith, accompanied by pianist Jonathan Holmes.
Youth Council treasurer Tyler Graves honored Dr. King by reciting the Langston Hughes poem “I, Too, am America.” Service awards were then presented to youth past-president Zamora White (2017-2019) and youth president Allison Foster (2019-2020). Miss White currently attends New River Community College. Miss Foster attends Christiansburg High School and plans to major in nursing after she graduates.
As a musical tribute to Dr. King, Jason Diggs II sang “Abraham, Martin and John,” accompanied by Jonathan Holmes.
The annual Branch Community Service Awards in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to Dr. Martha Ann Stallings and Dr. Wornie Reed, both of Blacksburg.
Dr. Stallings is a lifelong educator, beginning as a classroom teacher, and then working as a supervisor for staff development in Montgomery County schools. During this time, she was also involved for five years with the county’s Diversity Forum. Later she worked as a training coordinator for Inclusive Practices at Virginia Tech. Stallings recently joined the New River Community College Education Board, and she is a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Association for women educators.
Since 2014, Dr. Stallings has provided leadership as Chair of the Education Committee for the Dialogue on Race. In the community, Dr. Stallings has volunteered for the Montgomery County Christmas Store since its very beginning and with the “To Our House” homeless shelter for several years. She has been a deacon at Blacksburg Baptist Church for eight years and currently serves as the church’s personnel committee chair. Dr. Stallings and her husband, Charlie, have two children and three grandchildren.
Dr. Wornie Reed met Martin Luther King during the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott and heard him speak dozens of times thereafter. He marched with Dr. King and participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
After working for the US Census Bureau and IBM, Dr. Reed earned a PhD in Sociology and taught at several universities before coming to Virginia Tech in 2009, where he directs the Race and Social Policy Research Center. Dr. Reed has numerous publications to his credit, including a book on racial profiling. He has been an organizer of the local Dialogue on Race since its inception, as well as being a board member of the Virginia ACLU and a subscribing Silver Life Member of the NAACP.
Dr. Reed has won numerous awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the VT Black Graduate Students Organization. Dr. Reed and his wife, Mildred, have two sons.
Following the presentations, Roxie Palmer made a special appeal that attendees officially join the NAACP. Regular membership is $30 per year. Then Jason Diggs and Jonathan Holmes combined to perform James Fortune’s “I Believe.”
The branch’s Samuel H. Clark Memorial Scholarship Fund provides up to five scholarships of $1,000 each to youth who extend their education beyond high school at a college or technical school. To be eligible, a youth must be a member of the youth council or be a child or grandchild of a branch member and live in this area. Dozens of local youth have been supported in this way through the years. An offering was taken that raised $1,552 for this fund. While Mr. Holmes played piano and Mr. Diggs switched to drums, they were joined by the Rev. Jones on soprano saxophone for improvisational offertory music.
Doris Kane introduced the keynote speaker, the Rev. C. Coles Casey, pastor of the First Baptist Church on Rock Road in Radford. The Rev. Casey noted that there never was a time when the struggle was not an uphill journey, but we have to be in it to win it. While there are more than 900 streets in the United States named after Dr. King, street signs don’t feed the hungry—we do, the pastor said. He went on to tell the audience, Dr. King warned that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Instead of pointing a finger at others in their wrong-doing, I should point that finger at myself and say “It starts with me!”
Branch president Deborah H. Travis shared the branch’s vision for the next year, followed by a benediction by the Rev. Ryan Schaeffer. A reception was then held in the Fellowship Hall.
The next general body meeting of the local NAACP will be Sunday, Feb. 16, at 3:30 p.m. at Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church at 580 High Street in Christiansburg. (Note that this third-Sunday meeting is an exception; we usually meet on the fourth Sunday of the month.). Everyone is welcome.
To learn more about the Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County NAACP Branch #7092 at mrfnaacp.org/.