Yesterday several hundred people of all ages filled Burt School’s auditorium and classrooms for workshops and seminars before the annual NAACP Martin Luther King Day march. Children worked on projects and learned more about the civil rights movement and Rev Martin Luther King Jr. Director of Schools Michael Harris spoke to adults about their children’s education. Vanderbilt University Professor Wanda Snead addressed issues of domestic violence, and Valerie Hunter-Kelly of Keller Williams Realty spoke about mortgages and personal finances.
Several elected officials attended today’s event, including State Representative Joe Pitts, County Commissioner Lettie Kendall, and City Council members Barbara Johnson and Marc Harris.
Michael Harris addressed the state of education in the Clarksville area. Discussing after school programs, he said that all of Clarksville schools provide after school tutoring for at-risk students, and also provide transportation for students using the programs. He said there are still many things being developed including assisting special needs students. The number of special needs students is growing in our community and the school system acknowledges that they need to do more to help those students.
During the question and answer session, a grandmother asked Harris, “Is there a way to get local college students to help tutor? Some of our youth are still struggling even with the at-risk programs and those same youth have excelled with tutoring. The parents don’t have the money to pay for tutoring; how can we get help?” Harris said if a child is not making it despite the at-risk program, he wants to hear about it. “We don’t want to lose anybody.” he responded.
Some of the targets he saw as goals of his tenure are smaller classroom sizes for all grades and smaller neighborhood high schools. He also made it clear that he is seeking out more minority teachers and school administrators to provide positive role models for minorities.
Director Harris also stated that he would like to see parents stay more involved in their children’s education, including that transition time when children reach the Middle School age. Harris said parents are involved up to a certain age and then they stop. He wants schools to be an open, welcoming place for parents and community leaders to volunteer and he encourages them to consider doing so.
Wanda Snead offered a seminar on domestic violence and the safe houses which are available to women and their children. She made it clear that domestic violence does not discriminate.
“It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, young or old, rich or poor, White, Black, Asian, or Hispanic; anyone can be abused.”
It’s often hard for a battered person to seek help because they feel responsible for the ugliness shown to them by their abuser. It’s also much worse for children, who feel they are the cause of the problem or think that they can fix it.
She told the crowd that friends, neighbors and relatives of those in a violent situations need to reach out to the abused, and urge them to seek help. Sometimes that is the only way they will seek the help that they desperately need.
I’m reminded of the quote by Martin Luther King Jr.: Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. It comes down to that, as Ms. Snead points out.
Mortgages and Personal Finances
Valerie Hunter-Kelly of Keller Williams Realty spoke about mortgages and financial issues, stating that despite the rest of the country having trouble in the housing market, Clarksville is making national news with its steady price of housing. There are many things to beware of when buying a house: balloon payments, pre-payment penalties and variable rates.
She also urged caution regarding lending scams: cash advance loans and pre-approved credit cards with outrageous penalties, interest, and fees. Of course with the approaching tax season, refund anticipation loans is added to the list. All of these are things which prey on people desperate for instant cash.
Ms. Hunter-Kelly assured people who are having trouble with mortgage payments that there are other options possible besides foreclosure: one example she gave is short sales.
If the real estate has no equity, a homeowner may still be able to avoid a mortgage foreclosure judgment by listing the real estate for a pre-foreclosure or short sale. A short sale in real estate occurs when the outstanding loan balance against a property is greater than what the property can be sold for at fair market value.
When it was time for the march, the crowd gathered in front of Burt School and with a police escort set off down Eighth Street. The march then headed down College Street. Hundreds sang together on their way up North Second and through downtown over to city hall, where all bowed their heads as a prayer was said asking for the law to be just, and justice to be fair. The march proceeded over to the county jail where another prayer was said asking for God to watch over and help those who are incarcerated. Then they traveled by the historic court house and returned back to Burt School. During the event the crowd was jubilant and their spirits were up-beat.
Photos by Bill Larson. Click on any image in this article to enlarge the image.
Editor’s Note: All pictures taken taken by Bill Larson and Debbie Boen
This article truly captures this event and shows that diversity and tolerance is truly Dr King’s message and then some! I Love the pictures; they make me feel like I was there and a part of the event.
Coming from one who has represented the spirit of Dr. King in this town, that is truly a compliment.
Thanks clarksvilleonline for your support. Your devotion to covering events hosted by the Clarksville Branch of the NAACP throughout the city of Clarksville this weekend was unparallel. We as the sponsor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr commemerative celebration salutes you and your staff on making our programs more available to thsoe who desired to partake.
The MLK holiday for some was just a day off, but for members of the NAACP, it was a day on. By this I mean a day to set-aside to pay homeage to a man who made a tremendous difference in the way we live today. Believe it or not, there were some who chose simply to forget the contributions he made to freedom irregardless of race, creed or national orgin.
We, the NAACP, chose to devote quality time to keep the dream alive by attending religious services, preparing and presenting workshops and marching. Although the march was symbolic, it had its relevance to society as we know it today.
As some of us reflect back to the days of the 60’s we know the meaning behind the marches and the songs we sung. During that period, each song carried a distinct meaning and each step symbolized moving just a little closer to realizing the goal of equality. Equality in education, economics, politics, as well as social recognitions.
We have not made it to the mountaintop yet, but we still strive. We strive to be the best citizens, best employee, best neighbor and best friends to members of our community. We strive to make sure our children get the best possible education, healthcare, and are equipped to assimilate into the spheres of adulthood. We strive to live our live in a way that serves as an icon to our peers as well as our subordinates. We strive to hold those accountable who are elected to represent our best interest.
The holiday has ended but our commitment to fight the fight of justice for all continues. It continues because we still have flaws in our fabrics. The fabric of democracy is giong through a process of renewal. If she is to successfullly complete to cycle, each of us have a role to play in mending it. As we look forward to the rest of 2008, let us focus on the greatness of the deeds done by Dr King. His sacrifice, committment and willingness to go to jail to help right the wrongs that were being inflicted upon the poor.
We are a great nation, great state, great city and most of all a great prople. May God truly bless America in 2008.