Youth imagines the world if King had lived on

February 17, 2001

Youth imagines the world if King had lived on

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer

Fifteen-year-old Lawrence Staten of Hagerstown asked about 25 people Saturday to imagine how things might be had Martin Luther King Jr. not been assassinated.

"Laws have been passed that not only outlaw racism, but make it the highest capital crime," he said, envisioning a world with the famous civil rights leader still alive. "There is universal acceptance of every race and creed.

"There is no reason to fear drive-by shootings in downtown areas, for everyone is given respect a human deserves," Staten told his audience at the Washington County Free Library. "There is no need to scream and shout how much one hates another, when all people do is sit down calmly and work out their differences in a humane manner."

"The flying of the Confederate flag has been outlawed because of the pain it brings to others," he said.


And, in Staten's eyes, George W. Bush would not have been elected the nation's 43rd president had King lived. It would have been Ralph Abernathy, King's close friend during the civil rights movement.

Staten was one of two youths chosen to lead a public reading at the library in celebration of Black History Month. Staten, who attends St. Paul's School for Boys, a private school in Brooklandville, Md., enjoys history and public speaking.

Staten attends the school near Baltimore during the week, then returns home to Hagerstown on the weekends, where he sometimes speaks at his church, Asbury United Methodist Church on Jonathan Street.

'Curious pattern'

King was shot to death in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968.

Why, Staten asked, must people like Robert F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy and King - who fought so hard for civil rights - be gunned down?

"A curious pattern is beginning to emerge. Is America this resistant to change?" he asked.

The second student offering readings was Whytne Brooks, a sophomore at North Hagerstown High School.

Brooks read poems from famous black poets such as Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. She also sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing," commonly referred to as the black national anthem.

Brooks said he likes reading Angelou's work because she can relate to it. A poet can say something that people have a difficult time expressing, said Brooks, a musician who plays piano, organ and violin.

"It's just nice having that down on paper," Brooks said.

One of the Angelou poems Brooks read was "Phenomenal Woman."

"Men have wondered what they see in me. They try so much, but they can't touch my inner mystery," the poem reads in part.

Dawn Hoffman, who came to hear the readings, said such messages need to be delivered more often.

"I think there's still too much separation between the cultures and it troubles me," said Hoffmann, who lives in Hagers-town.

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