Inspiring young people were the highlight of the morning program for Newport's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day Celebration.
“My generation needs to be proactive rather than reactive," said guest speaker Ariel Carter, a first year law student at Roger Williams University School of Law. "We have to step up. We have to work."
Carter, a 2006 Rogers High School graduate, recounted her experiences as an undergraduate at the University of New Haven, where she worked with fellow students to establish the school’s chapter of the NAACP.
“My generation has a lot to live up to,” she said, “but we have a lot to gain.”
In her welcoming remarks, mistress of ceremonies Kassandra Brown, a senior at Rogers High School, expressed her appreciation for the opportunities Dr. King and others from the civil rights movement made possible for her, including attending college.
“I am committed to living up to Dr. King’s sacrifice,” Brown said.
Amber Johnson, a senior at Classical High School and the 2010 Poetry Out Loud National Champion, moved the audience with a stirring poetry reading, bringing to life the strengths, triumphs, and struggles of the African American community.
The singing group New Gospel Melodies of Community Baptist Church, comprised of young people ages seven to 12, awed the audience with two musical selections.
Officials on hand to offer remarks and remembrances included Mayor Stephen Waluk of Newport, Superintendent John Ambrogi, Newport School Committee Chairman Patrick Kelley, Councilor Richard Cambra of Middletown, and Councilor James Seveney of Portsmouth.
Near the end of the program, runners from the Navy and Marine Corps arrived, concluding the eight-mile torch run that began in Portsmouth.
“This torch symbolizes the torch of freedom, which will be passed from this generation to the next,"explained Joyce Williams, president of the Newport County NAACP, after thanking the runners. "Our generation isn’t tired, but we are getting a little slow.”
Kendra Goodrum, the event’s organizer, echoed the day’s theme.
“It’s time for our generation to step up," Goodrum said, "to see this day not as a day off, but rather a day on."