VALDOSTA -- All of the pews at St. Paul A.M.E. Church were filled to capacity Monday as Valdostans braved the rain to celebrate and remember the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy in the Civil Rights Movement. The event's theme was "Stop the Violence! Turn to One Another, Not On One Another!"

The service, which preceded a fellowship dinner at Mathis Auditorium, lasted about an hour. Children, such as Shenita Ryne Evans, who sang "Wind Beneath My Wings," took a leading role in the service.

Miteisha Padgett read a selection about King's life, and Sontoria Felton played the piano. The Pleasant Temple PeeWee Choir also performed.

Brittney Gordon, a seventh-grader at Valdosta Middle School, was the speaker.

"There is no such thing as a day off," Gordon said in her speech, reminding the congregation that there is still much work to be done to ensure equality for all. Gordon also stressed an old saying: those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it. She encouraged the congregation to keep working toward eliminating discrimination.

"It was Martin Luther King's dream that people of all races would someday live, play and even work together in harmony," Gordon said. "Because of his determination, his dream became a reality. But the reality is, children today -- in the year 2002 -- still die because of hatred."

At the end of Gordon's speech, Clifton Young and Stephon Edgarton sang four selections, from hymns to spirituals, including "We Shall Overcome."

"It was very nice, I enjoyed it," said Jimmy Ingram, director of the retiree activities office at Moody Air Force Base.

He added that he's pleased to see that the local MLK celebration continues to grow each year. "I think it's great that people come out on their own time to remember and honor Martin Luther King."

Anita Evans, a licensed practical nurse at Lake Haven Nursing home, said she enjoyed how uplifting the service was. "It reminded me of the struggles that we, as black people went through ... and it was real powerful [having people] come together."

To contact reporter Marie Arrington, please call 244-3400, ext. 254.

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