Many people throughout the community came together Monday to celebrate the legacy of late civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., through celebrations and acts of service on the federal holiday in his honor.
The youth ministry at Golden Memorial United Methodist Church recognized King’s legacy by paying tribute to the civil rights leader at a special program held at the Douglasville church.
“GY4L,” the youth ministry at the church, opened the celebration with a welcome, followed by members of the Golden Mass Choir and youth participants who led the congregation in “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a poem and song written by James Weldon Johnson, often referred to as the unofficial Black National Anthem.
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.
This solemn, sacred song forged the way for the remainder of the service, followed by a scripture reading by Desmond Pennamon and an impassioned prayer led by Brandon Pennamon. An expressive poem, “Darkness to Light,” was read by Henry Mitchell IV.
Tamara Baylor introduced the keynote speaker, the Honorable Judge Cynthia Adams, who was appointed to the Douglas County Judicial Circuit by Gov. Nathan Deal on Jan. 31, 2017 and was sworn in as a Superior Court Judge on Feb. 13, 2017.
Prior to assuming the bench, Judge Adams served as Judge Pro Tempore in the Douglas County Juvenile Court and as a solo practitioner at the Law Office of Cynthia C. Adams in Douglasville. She previously served as a prosecutor in Fulton County and DeKalb County before opening her own law practice in 2008. While at the District Attorney's Office she was assigned to the special victims unit where she prosecuted crimes committed against children, such as child molestation and child homicide. She earned her undergraduate degree from Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) and her law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law.
Bringing with her a passion for young people, Adams created a reading library in the Douglas County Juvenile Court, with a hope the library “would light a spark of creativity in children.” She is a 2017 Leadership Douglas graduate, a member of the Rotary Club of Douglas County and of the Junior League.
The youngest of 11 children, her family moved to the United States from the Bahamas when she was 10 years old.
“Martin Luther King Day is special to me,” said Adams. “I don’t ever forget from which I came.”
As guest speaker at the annual church event, Adams said, “I think I missed my calling. When I get to the pulpit, I want to preach.”
She then addressed the young people in the audience, “In the spirit of being a preacher, will the next Martin please stand up?”
Adams said that young Martin had a dream long before he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
“The dream didn’t develop on those steps,” she said. “He was serious about church when he was a boy. His mother would take him to different churches and he would sing his song, “I Want to Be More Like Jesus..
She said the Martin was also serious about school — not unlike Adams herself.
“My parents drilled into me the importance of church and school, because I was going to learn about God and go to school because I was going to be somebody.”
Just to detail how a young Martin excelled at such a young age, she said he won first place in an oratorical contest at age 13; he took a college exam at age 15 and started attending Morehouse College; at 18 he entered the ministry.
“He knew he wanted to go somewhere and be somebody,” Adams said.
She said that at the same time King was preparing for his “I Have a Dream” speech, her parents were getting on a boat from Haiti, a small, poverty-ridden country and heading for the Bahamas. They traveled in the bowels of a ship with no food or water.
“My parents had a dream and they would work hard while we were in the Bahamas. They showed me how to work hard,” the judge said. “We traveled to the U.S., and they showed us how to work hard. I was inspired by them and I had a dream.”
Adams said she always knew she wanted to be a lawyer.
“I knew it in my bones and knew my goal was to be on the bench and to be on a superior court bench,” she said. “On my journey, there were many who told me no, who planted the seed of doubt. But God had already had a plan for me to be a lawyer.”
She said that there had never been a black superior court judge in Douglas County; and there had never been a woman superior court judge in Douglas County.
“I had a dream,” said Adams, “and God gave me the dream.”
Adams told the young people of Golden Memorial UMC, “You have a dream: will the next Martin please stand up and be heard and deliver? You do not have to wait until you’re older. When people tell you you’re too young, tell them you have a dream; God gave me this dream. You are the next generation — you are the next Martin.”
Amen and amen.