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By SHAINA STOCKTON
Years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream of racial equality with the world. Society since that time has changed drastically, making King’s dream a reality.
Decades after his death, many still find the strength in his words to pursue their own dreams, no matter how difficult they may seem.
Each year, local churches gather in Galax to celebrate Martin Luther King Day with stories of inspiration, music and fellowship. On Jan. 20, speakers spread their messages to a full audience at Gospel Temple #2 in the Oldtown community of West Galax.
While society has made great strides in creating an open an accepting environment for people regardless of race, Galax Vice Mayor Willie Greene noted that the journey is still not over. “There is still prejudice out there, even in 2013,” he said. To fight against it, he encouraged the audience to stay positive and strong in the face of adversity.
As a speaker quoted from Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer deflects anger.”
“When standing your ground, it is all about how you act,” the speaker said.
Stevie Richardson stood up in the audience to give his own testimony. “The dream does live on,” he said. “We are not there yet, but Dr. King said we would get there.”
Jamar Chandler of Galax stood as a prime example of success in his graduation robes from Liberty University, where he obtained his degree in 2012.
Chandler is head football defensive coach at Virginia Episcopal Private School, as well as a junior varsity head basketball coach and a long-term substitute teacher.
During his speech, he recalled the stereotypes he had to overcome in order to get where he is today. “I talked to one of my mentors, and he told me to be bold with who I am,” he said. “I’ve struggled with insecurity about not being where I want to be in life just yet. I felt like I wasn’t worthy.”
After growing up in close contact with his family in Galax, Chandler had to make a lot of adjustments when he went off to college. “You don’t have that family support, so you have to find your own way,” he said.
His success not only helped build his self-confidence, but also served as inspiration to his friends, family and other members of his community.
“I’m so proud of Jamar Chandler,” said Galax High School teacher Dionne Tucker. By her own admission, she is tough on her students about their future plans, always asking if they are applying to colleges, trying for scholarships and doing well with their Standards of Learning tests.
“People are looking at you. They see who you are as soon as you sit down in the classroom,” Tucker said. “I tell my kids, ‘don’t be the class clown, be the valedictorian or salutatorian.'"
The event featured several other speakers and performances by choirs including New Gospel Temple Choir, Old Town Baptist, River Hill Baptist and many more.
Praising not only King for his accomplishments in life, the congregation praised God in words, song and prayer.
Evangelist Gloria Richardson encouraged all in attendance to shine brightly. “We are the light of the world, and light will prevail,” she said.