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January 20, 2013

King’s message recalled: Civil right’s leader’s legacy ‘continues to fall forward,’ NAACP keynote speaker says

JOHNSTOWN — The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. fit a lifetime’s worth of great accomplishments into his short 39 years of life, Johnstown native Leah P. Hollis said Sunday.

It’s a reminder to everyone that any time is the right time to make a positive impact – and for good deeds great and small, Hollis, a lecturer, educator and author, told a diverse crowd of nearly 200 at an interfaith remembrance of King in East Conemaugh on Sunday.

“Dr. King’s shadow fell far and wide after his death,” she said, remembering King and a dream he had for America that she said has continued toward fruition over the years following his death.  “(His shadow) continues to fall forward.”

Hollis, founder of the Patricia Berkly LLC group, was the keynote speaker for the

Johnstown branch of the NAACP’s 27th annual interfaith event, held Sunday at Mount Sinai Institutional Baptist Church.

Organizers said they chose King’s quote “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear” because its message is a timely one in these sometimes violent times.

Hollis said she crafted her speech after losing her house and car keys on North Philadelphia’s rough streets on her way to an event this fall.

By the time she realized they were gone, an unknown good Samaritan found them outside the venue where she was speaking and made sure they were returned.

“I don’t know who it was, whether they were young or old or black or white. They could have ran away with my car,” Hollis said. “Instead, some angel ... helped me in a time of need.”

Pointing to the fact King led the Montgomery bus boycott at 26 years old, organized the largest-ever march on Washington, D.C. at 34 and won the Nobel Peace Prize a year later, she asked the crowd how the world might be different if King said “I’m too young,” instead of working for change.

Neighbors, clergy, coaches and teachers have opportunities every day to make a difference locally, she reminded the crowd.

“There’s an MLK in all of us – an opportunity to do the right thing, whether you are 26, 46 or 96,” Hollis said.

Sunday’s event marked the 27th annual interfaith event honoring King and his legacy and was held on the eve of the national holiday in his name.

“This is what he was dreaming of – diversity. Working together and loving each other,” NAACP Secretary Patricia Holifield said, scanning the crowd. “But I’m looking forward to the day when it doesn’t have to go on the calandar. When we don’t have to be reminded.”

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