It takes dedication and hard work to achieve Dr. Martin Luther King's goals and visions.
Which is exactly what some Vineyarders are willing to offer.
Tuesday evening, members of the Martha's Vineyard Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) gathered for their annual dinner to celebrate Dr. King's life and the people on the Island who strive to carry out his message.
"I want to thank you so very, very much, our supporters, for being here at our annual Martin Luther King observance," said Mandred Henry, the president of the Vineyard chapter. "I thought that the most important thing is to thank people."
Acknowledging people who had made a difference remained at the forefront of the evening, both in the awards and in the address by keynote speaker Dr. Kenneth R. Walker Sr.
Mr. Walker is vice chairman of the Rhode Island State Parole Board. He has also worked extensively in the field of urban education. As the director of the early enrollment program at Rhode Island College, he created a program that enabled high school students to take courses for college credit in their own schools. He also is president of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials.
During his speech, Mr. Walker reminded the audience of Dr. King's hopes. "Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace," he read from Dr. King's acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. "If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."
But the bulk of Mr. Walker's speech focused upon the Island on which he is a summer resident. "Martha's Vineyard is truly a special piece of land, populated by a special group of individuals," he said.
Earlier in the evening, more than 150 people mingled during cocktail hour and then enjoyed a dinner of stuffed chicken or salmon with collard greens, mashed potatoes, Caesar salad and bread pudding.
The evening also provided the NAACP with the opportunity to present awards to people who have contributed to the organization over the years.
One award went to longtime chapter member Vera Shorter, who takes care of publicity for the organization. "She's a beautiful, vibrant lady. If anybody knows Vera, you know Vera would do anything for you. She tries to retire, but we won't let this vibrant lady retire," said Roni DeLuz who was presenting the awards. "Vera, no one can do what you do."
Another thank you went to Mr. Henry. "He's so like Vera. He's always trying to retire, but we're not going to let him do that," Ms. DeLuz said.
The association also thanked two Island business owners for the donations they have made to NAACP events; they presented certificates to Louis Larsen, owner of The Net Result, and Mary Williams, owner of The Carousel Boutique.
Those who were not present also remained on people's minds. At the beginning of the evening, the assembly paused for a moment of silence for member Shirley Graves, who died last year. "Everybody missed her, because she would have been at the desk with me to greet people," said Carrie Tankard in a conversation with the Gazette.
Mr. Walker's speech ended the evening, and he began by naming issues that still need to be resolved. "What can we share on this annual event? What would be proper to speak about? Can we talk about giving back to some victims of slavery?" he asked.
He recalled an investigative report which looked at African-Americans who had paid up to $3,000 to insurance companies for prepaid funerals. "As it turned out in so many situations, these individuals passed on and their heirs made a claim and, in most cases, received a check for something like $960," he said.
But instead of dwelling on injustices, Mr. Walker focused upon people who had already made a difference, something that Dr. King would have respected. "He would be doubly proud of the 25 who attend meetings and threefold glad of the super 10 who keep the organization together," he said, listing the last names of long-term Vineyard chapter members like Tankard, DeLuz, Palmer, Weintraub, Shorter, Graves and Mayhew.
"There's a theme that threads through it all. Very, very few of the individuals who are constants, the steel, the backbone, of Martha's Vineyard are natives of Martha's Vineyard. They come from different places," Mr. Walker said.
Indeed, it's people like these who help keep Dr. King's dreams alive. "In closing we could all lift our voices and sing, ‘We shall overcome' and then we'll all shout ‘Free at last! free at last! Thank God almighty, we're free at last,' " he said.