Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
Andre Peery, Dr. Wornie Reed (center) and Rev. John Heck each received plaques at this year’s Martin Luther King breakfast at the Pigg River Community Center in Rocky Mount.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
"Dr. King was not an advocate of peace, but an advocate of justice," said Dr. Wornie Reed, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Race and Social Policy.
Speaking at the 11th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast at the Pigg River Community Center Monday morning, Reed shared some of his personal encounters with King during his keynote address.
King thought that true peace was not "merely the absence of tension" but the "presence of justice," Reed said.
Reed said he participated in the black boycott of segregated city bus lines in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.
"There were 381 days of the boycott," he said. "I was a student at Alabama State; therefore, I participated in the boycott. This is where we were introduced to this dynamic young minister (King)."
It was a very serious time, Reed said. Houses and churches owned by blacks were bombed, as well as service stations and taxi services owned by blacks.
While traveling between Alabama and Washington, D.C., "I would stop in every month or so just to hear King give a sermon," he said. "Every sermon was, in my view, just as good as the 'I Have a Dream' speech."
According to Reed, King didn't think he would live long. Reed recalled King speaking to a crowd and asking them not to talk about his awards or build memorials for him. He asked that they continue his work.
"This is not what I read," said Reed. "This is what I heard. I was there."
Reed outlined what he thought King would advise America to do in 2013.
"The Martin Luther King that I knew would remind us that he put his life in danger to push for solutions to the poverty problems in this country," said Reed. "We called the rate of poverty back then an outrage. Now, it is much worse. The number of people in poverty in the U.S. has increased 40 percent since 1968."
Discrimination against blacks in employment is virtually unchanged since King's death, Reed said.
"King would call this to our attention and demand that we do something about it," he added. "He would tell us how this is destroying black communities and ultimately putting America in peril."
Reed, a professor of sociology and Africana studies at Tech, received his bachelor's degree in secondary education (science and mathematics) at Alabama State University and his master's and doctorate degrees in sociology from Boston University.
He was also a professor of Africana studies and sociology and director of the Africana studies program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Reed has taught and directed research centers at Washington University, Morgan State University, University of Massachusetts at Boston and Cleveland State University.
His honors and awards include two regional Emmys in 2000 and 2003 for his work with Public Health Television, Inc.
Reed and his wife, Mildred, have two sons.
During Monday's breakfast, community service awards were presented to Rev. John Heck, executive director of the Phoebe Needles Center, and Andre Peery, retired Boy Scout district leader. Peery also served as master of ceremonies for this year's breakfast.
The MLK Breakfast Committee members include Mary Helm, Bettye Buckingham, Josephine Edwards, William Helm Jr., Florella Johnson, Glenna Moore and Larry Moore.
Proceeds from this year's event will benefit two local charities.