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Rev. King's dream

Residents consider whether it's been achieved

Residents consider whether it's been achieved

January 17, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

karenh@herald-mail.com

A dream for racial equality crystallized for Jene Evans while she was in a shop buying ice cream cones.

As a white employee served others, Evans, who is black, said she and her daughter were ignored.

In Niagara, N.Y., in about 1963 - the same time period when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream," speech - Evans said the employee told her, "he didn't have time to waste on n------."

"My dream was that my daughter would never know the word n-----, nor my grandkids, nor my great- grandkids," said Evans, 62.

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Evans and hundreds of people of different races and ages took part in workshops at a Monday event honoring King on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The event, sponsored by The Herald-Mail Co. and Hagerstown Community College, attracted about 400 people to HCC, said Donna Rudy, the student affairs dean.

The events included a speech honoring Bill Mason, Washington County's first black deputy sheriff, community leader Ruth Ann Monroe and Rosa Parks. The Rev. Darin Mency delivered a dramatic rendition of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

While participants at the event said they believed the country has made strides toward King's dream of racial equality, some said they believe more must be done to make the civil-rights-era ideals reality.

"If I stay in Hagerstown, Hagerstown has a ways to go," Evans said.

Mary Mallery, a 69-year-old white woman who attended the events with her husband, Richard, said she has seen progress.

Her family moved from Boston to New Orleans for two years while she was a youth, and she rode segregated buses, she said.

"It was tough being a Yankee in the South, so I know what progress has been made," Mallery said.

As the only black student in his class at Maugansville Elementary School, 13-year-old Jamal Gipson said he has been the target of racial slurs.

"It's like their parents teach them from when they're little," he said.

In a one-hour workshop, Gipson and other youths and adults reflected on the struggles and achievements of the civil-rights movement. During one exercise, moderator Larry Ryan of Chambersburg, Pa., instructed groups of people divided in circles around the room to join arms, as King and his supporters did during marches.

As volunteers pushed at the arm-locked clusters, Ryan reminded participants not to break their links with each other. Only one group ignored the directions - members broke arms to allow the volunteers to join them.

Telling participants that was the activity's true lesson, Ryan asked the groups to repeat the exercise but to allow volunteers who left the circles to rejoin them.

Most groups, including the one that initially broke its guard, quickly obliged.

Across the room, a group of college-aged youths tussled as volunteers tried to break their circle. While some people repeated Ryan's directions, others pushed back.

"By any means necessary is what Malcolm X says," someone shouted.

For Samantha Rivera, a biracial 29-year-old, King's emphasis on nonviolence has been an inspiration.

"Just the peace and the freedom he wanted for both, for all peoples. I've had to struggle with being from both, from two cultures, finding my place," Rivera said between workshop activities.

Racism probably will remain a problem, said Deidrea Dickens, 25, who brought her three young daughters to the day's events.

As people of all races settled down for lunch at HCC's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center, Dickens, who is black, said she believes God is interested in seeing how people can relate to those who are different. King is a hero, she said.

"But, thanks to him, we can set together, we can enjoy one another. Color doesn't matter," she said.

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