From the Jan. 17, 1986 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Mary Holman was teaching school in Boston when she first heard of Martin Luther King Jr. It was the early 60s and she was teaching black history to junior high students. She told her students about the southern black minister and his non-violent battle for civil rights. “Wherever I went I talked about him.”

Mary Holman lives in Oak Bluffs now, and Wednesday night at the door of the Sacred Heart parish hall she took tickets for a dinner celebration of the late Dr. King’s 57th birthday.

More than 100 people came, and Mary and her fellow members of the Vineyard NAACP were astounded.

Alain Lucas is a 14-year-old Oak Bluffs eighth grader. When he was nine his father told him about Martin Luther King. “He wanted me to learn something,” he said.

Wednesday night after the dinner at the long tables in the wood-paneled meeting room was over, Alain came to the front of the room and read:

“Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on Jan. 15, 1929. His father was the pastor of the Ebenezar Baptist Church.”

Mary Holman listened. Since the early 1960s she has read everything she found about Dr. King.

Alain Lucas read: “. . . on Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, was ordered to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. She refused to do so and was promptly arrested. In protest of her arrest and the city policy of bus segregation, Martin Luther King Jr. led a boycott of the city buses.”

Three other Oak Bluffs junior high school students sat with Alain. They were Sue Madeiras, David Dauphinais and Ricky Duarte. None of them were alive on April 4, 1968 when an assassin fired a gun at Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn. and killed him.

They quoted the slain leader’s words.

Sue read: “ ‘We proved . . . that we needed no weapons — not so much as a toothpick. We proved that we possessed the most formidable weapon of all — the conviction that we were right . . .’ ”

She listed some of the scenes of Dr. King’s famous struggles between 1955 and 1965. Birmingham. Selma. St. Augustine. Motgomery.

The march on Washington D.C. in August of 1963.

Rick quoted famous words from that historic day: “ ‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal . . .

“ ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character...’ ”

A poster board tacked near the parish hall entrance bore the same phrases. Art students at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School made it and seven other posters quoting Dr. King.

David read: “ ‘Every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. Every now and then I ask myself, ‘What is it that I want said?’ . . . If you get someone to deliver the eulogy tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards. That’s not important.’ ”

It was comfortable in the little meeting hall, and warm. Black people, white people, Portuguese people, elderly people, young people, middle-aged people, small children, leaders, teachers, clergy, and workers sat and listened to the youths. The adults paid $12 for the event. The fee gave them a membership to the Vineyard NAACP. Shirley Graves, the treasurer, said the event was a membership drive, but she thought the people came to celebrate the birthday of the man.

On Monday, the nation will celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King in the first national holiday honoring him. But the Vineyard NAACP decided to celebrate on the anniversary of his real birth.

January starts our year with cold contradictions. It is January that drives us indoors, and rewards us when we venture out with impressions as sharp and vivid as the very air. January brings winter’s first fierce cold, but with freshness and novelty. There will be time later to long for spring.

Indoors, the wood stove reassumes its primacy over the television set on January mornings in Island homes. The home itself becomes a cosier place for being a haven from the cold. Long, dark evenings provide time for family card games and good books.

Out of doors, sharpness and solitude are the finest gifts of January. Take a walk on South Beach this month and you won’t stay long, but the memory will be cut as deeply into your mind as the winter-blown waves cut into the sand. On a clear day the view is to the razor-line of the horizon, and the only blurring is from the tears the wind brings to your eyes.

The clarity of view which this month affords is the more intense for January’s place in the man-made calendar of the Vineyard. Soon our off-season pastime of town politics will occupy us, and then comes the resort season with its commerce, but in January there is actually time to pause and think.

Compiled by Hilary Wall