The theme this year was youth, including youthful viewpoints and honors for people who work with youth, at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. day brunch, hosted by the Vineyard chapter of the NAACP. The event took place at Deon’s Restaurant in Oak Bluffs on Monday and was attended by over 100 people. It was a celebration both of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the work that the NAACP and those affiliated with the organization have done and continue to do. The two guest speakers and a quartet of musicians all were students from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
Elaine Weintraub, a member of the NAACP and well-known high school history teacher, introduced teenaged guest speakers Randall Jett and Troy Small.
In introducing Randall, Mrs. Weintraub said: “He has traveled the [Martha’s Vineyard African American] Heritage Trail on a number of occasions and has done presentations with other students at Shearer Cottage to raise money and awareness about African American history.”
Randall’s speech addressed the question, what does Martin Luther King mean to you? He described an event when a friend asked him if it is right to have “just a Martin Luther King day” because “[Dr. King] didn’t do it all alone.” Randall did not know what to say in the moment, and went home to reflect on it. After some reflection, which included watching a basketball game and seeing a player on the Boston Celtics win the most valuable player award that day, he went back to his friend and said while it’s true that Dr. King didn’t do it all by himself, “he was the movement’s MVP.” Dr. King was helping both blacks and whites, Randall said, and the team of which he was the most valuable player “wasn’t just a team, it was a nation.”
Introducing speaker Troy Small, Mrs. Weintraub said: “He has been on the board of the African American Heritage Trail, has participated in two dedications and in fact was guest speaker at a dedication in Vineyard Haven. Troy has been a remarkable support for the trail. His work on Sen. Edward Brooke is on the Web site of the trail.”
Troy gave a well-considered speech, the full text of which is published on the Commentary Page in today’s edition.
Following the speeches, there was a musical performance by four high school students: Toby Riseborough, Amanda Rose, Jenna Lambert and Rykker Maynard. They performed two songs; one was called Run Mary, Run, which crossed the words Run Mary, Run with Wade in the Water in a powerful rhythmic overlay. The second song was an arrangement of Lift Every Voice and Sing.
Three Islanders were recognized for outstanding service. Chosen on the basis of their involvement with Vineyard youth, this year’s recipients were the Rev. Roger Spinney, Tobias Vanderhoop and Steve Bernier.
Mr. Bernier, the owner of Cronig’s Markets in Vineyard Haven and West Tisbury, was cited for his work with people who have mental and physical challenges, as well as his continued commitment to the NAACP. “Over 30 years I have observed many challenged people working for Steve, and our committee thought that it was time that he be recognized for that,” said Lorna Andrade, co-chairman of the event. Mr. Bernier was overseas, so his wife, Constance, accepted on his behalf.
Reverend Spinney, who leads the Vineyard Haven First Baptist Church and Gay Head Community Baptist Church, and Mr. Vanderhoop, who is an active member of and ambassador for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), were similarly honored for their work with youth on the Island.
The event lasted just under two hours and included an excellent brunch, speeches, songs and prayer. Noting the nice aspects of the morning meal and program, NAACP president Laurie Perry-Henry concluded with a reminder to all about the true meaning of the national holiday. “There must now be a commitment to act beyond the holiday. Instead of celebrating Martin Luther King I would like you to now imitate Martin Luther King,” she said.