The 31st annual Newton County Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a time of tribute, worship and celebration at Newton High School Sunday.
The Civil Rights leader’s legacy was honored, his dedication to faith was revisited by those gathered inside the high school’s auditorium, and members of the Newton County community were celebrated with awards that have been given out annually by the MLK Jr. Holiday Observance Committee.
Debbie Hillman received the I Have a Dream Award, William Thomas Craig received the MLK Trailblazer Award and Eva Fuhrey and Joy Martin were given the Young Dreamer Award.
Hillman is a child development consultant who has worked with several civic organizations in Newton County, including Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Newton County NAACP.
“Service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy here on earth,” Hillman said.
Craig, who received his award directly following Hillman’s, was honored for his work in helping to create the Newton County King Scholarship Fund. The fund has given out 23 scholarships to local students to Oxford College of Emory University.
During his acceptance speech, Craig spoke of the hard work and trailblazing efforts of Harold Cobb, the county’s first black commissioner, Judge Horace Johnson, the county’s first black judge and Ezell Brown, the county’s first black sheriff.
Each year, the Young Dreamer Award is given to a student from kindergarten through fifth grade or sixth through 12th grade, and this year two recipients from the sixth through 12th grade category were chosen.
Eleven-year-old, sixth-grader, Fuhrey was chosen for such work as asking for a gift card and canned goods for Christmas to donate to the local food pantry, making bracelets to raise money for the Newton County Animal Shelter and earning high grades in school.
“I live by one rule,” Fuhrey said. “To treat others how I want to be treated.
Martin was not in attendance during Sunday’s ceremony, in which Emory University and former Oxford of Emory student Noah Cole was the keynote speaker.
Cole spoke on what King would think of today’s society and the race relations, compared to those of the 1960s.
“It’s amazing how far we’ve come since the Civil Rights movement and how far we have to go,” Cole said.
His speech, which touched on many of the events of 2015 both positive and negative, received a standing ovation.