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Hundreds gathered Monday for a message of hope and finding your life’s “blueprint” at the 26th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast held at the Darden Alumni Family Center.
“There is a blueprint,” said Edgecombe County sheriff and Wilson native Cleveland “Clee” Atkinson Jr. “Dr. King talked about the blueprint.”
Atkinson, this year’s guest speaker, drew from a speech that King delivered to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia six months before he was assassinated. Atkinson said a blueprint serves as a pattern, as a guide. He told the crowd that King’s guide to that blueprint included having a deep belief in your own dignity.
“Don’t allow anybody to make you feel like nobody,” Atkinson said. “Always feel like you count because you do. Always feel like your life has some significance.”
Atkinson said many people leave this world not knowing their life’s purpose. He said that’s why it is vital to know everyone counts in making a difference in this world.
“If you’ve got to stand by yourself, stand,” Atkinson said in his booming voice. “God loved us enough to make us individuals. We’ve got our own set of fingerprints. Why? Because nobody can touch the world the way we can. You have your own set of eyes because nobody can see the world the way you can see it. You are an original.”
HOPE, RESPONSIBILITY AND PERSEVERANCE
Atkinson, who was a top athlete and senior class student body president when he graduated from Fike High School, said there were many mentors and people who God put in his path, who helped shaped him into the person he is today. Atkinson told the youth in the crowd that many come along to help you reach your destination.
“You must have as a basic principle, the determination to achieve excellence in various fields of endeavor,” Atkinson said, echoing King’s speech to students. “You are the greatest wonder, and you don’t even realize it. Strive to be the absolute best.”
Atkinson said young people also need second chances, and a community should never give up on them.
Atkinson said part of King’s blueprint for survival is also having a commitment to eternal principles of beauty, love and justice.
“You have a responsibility to seek and make this nation a better place,” he said. “You have a responsibility to seek and make life better for everybody.”
And one can not live without hope, he said.
“The world needs hope,” Atkinson said. “This world that we are building together won’t be done without collaboration, education and rallying together for chance. With this blueprint, we can keep moving forward.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
City of Wilson Mayor Carlton Stevens commissioned the crowd to reflect on what they could do individually to make King’s dream come true.
“Everyone in this house has the ability to do small things in a great way,” Stevens said. “Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be and do what I can do for a greater purpose than myself.”
Stevens said King was much more than just a man.
“He was a humanitarian,” he said. “He was trendsetter. He was a transformational leader. He was a man of God who followed his beliefs. Today, I want you to take the time to reflect on the reason we are here ... think about what you can do individually to help bring the truth.”
Prayers were lifted up for the community, youth and the world Monday morning by various leaders including the Rev. Joshua Robinson, Amanda Jones and elder SaQuan Smith. The breakfast also included special music by Rhythm and Soul and Sallie B. Howard Chorus.
The breakfast is hosted by the MLK Jr. Commission in partnership with the city of Wilson’s Human Relations Commission office.