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Scholarship recipients reflect on MLK’s impact


Twenty-three-year-old Donetra Tisdale paused and took a deep breath.

“I’m nervous now,” she told the crowd before her.

It grew quiet in the room.

After regaining her composure, Tisdale continued with her introspective speech that wove in passages on how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had made an impact on her life.

Tisdale, an accounting and finance major at Fayetteville Technical Community College, said the scholarship money she receives from the Fayettevillle/Cumberland County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee will allow her to invest in her cryptocurrency portfolio.

“This is a dream come true,” she said.

Tisdale was one of six youth guest speakers on Friday night who presented personal testimonies on how King has impacted their lives over the new millennium. They each received a $500 scholarship to the college that they attend or plan on attending in the coming year.

The setting was the Fayetteville/Cumberland County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee Banquet, a fundraiser for the unfinished MLK Memorial Park on Blue Street. The banquet was held in the Tony Rand Student Center at FTCC.

“As we all know,” Tisdale said, “Dr. Martin Luther King was a crusader for non-violence, equality and social justice.”

“I will continue his legacy – Dr. Martin Luther King – to educate our people about the gift that is within us through this organization that helped me,” she said. “I am not ashamed of my color. And I am not ashamed of what others might say. … I am black and beautiful.”

Approximately 200 people attended the 28th FCCMLK banquet, including city and state leaders as well as those seeking public office in the upcoming election.

“Martin Luther King fought hard in nonviolent ways and made plenty of key points on why Americans should have equal voting rights,” Tisdale said. “As a millennial, I see this exact situation before my eyes. We are currently fighting to keep equal voting rights in the United States. Measures are being taken to ratify many laws and regulations regarding voting. The specific laws that the system is trying to do away with are mainly used by African Americans, and I believe that this is one of the reasons.”

Along with Tisdale, Zoie Stokes, Kanye Butler, Brandon Ethridge, Isis Davis and Nadia Crosby served as guest speakers for the banquet that honored King and the work being done by Dr. Wilson Lacy and the committee to complete the park.

Butler, who is 17 and a student at E.E. Smith, told banquet-goers to hearty applause that he has been accepted at N.C. A&T in Greensboro where he plans to begin his studies to become “a world-renown engineer.”

“King sacrificed his life,” he said, “so that in 2022 mankind inclusive of myself will be able to say, ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, I’m free at last.’ ”

In this new millennium, Butler said, “I have realized Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream has become a reality.”

Stokes is a 17-year-old senior at E.E. Smith High School who serves as student vice president and plans to attend Winston-Salem State University in the fall to major in early childhood education.

“I’m honored to speak to you all today about one of the most influential leaders in the U.S. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” she said. “He was a leader in the civil rights movement starting in 1955.”

Ethridge was the eldest of the scholarship recipients at 30 and a former 10-year service member. He is majoring in social science at FTCC and has aspirations of healing individuals as a physician’s assistant.

“Because of Dr. Martin Luther King’s push for equality,” Ethridge said from the podium, “I now have the freedom to pursue and fulfill my dream and goals of practicing medicine anywhere in the world.”

That drew a smattering of applause.

The 18-year-old Davis is majoring in science at FTCC and is interested in health care.

“... I want to contribute to the ongoing legacy of equality as a black woman myself,” she told her listeners.

In invoking the words of King from a favorite quote, she said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” King spoke those words in a 1966 speech to the Medical Committee for Human Rights.

“I find this quote to be important to me because I plan to change the idea of how shocking it is so it’s not so shocking,” Davis said. “I plan to do that by providing equal care to all in the health care field.”

The last of the half-dozen guest speakers was Crosby, 17, and a senior at Pine Forest High School. She will attend Fayetteville State University in the fall with the intention of majoring in biology.

The audience loved that idea.

“His goal created a world where all God’s children will be free remains planted in the hearts of tireless workers all over the world who struggle for a better day,” said Crosby. “Dr. King wanted us to break down the barriers of segregation. We must resist all forms of racial injustice. We must make clear, young people, that this is an age of which we will be forced to compete with people of all races and all nations alike.”

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fayetteville/Cumberland County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, park, scholarships