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Youth answer a call to serve in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

A CALL TO SERVE — Youth from Weirton First Nazarene Church and Bennett Briles, the church’s pastor for youth and young adults; sorted canned goods for the Steubenville Salvation Army Saturday, one of several projects undertaken by youth who responded to an invitation to serve by the Sycamore Youth Center in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo by Warren Scott)

STEUBENVILLE — The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” noted the Rev. Michael Jett of Mount Zion Baptist Church as he addressed youth who engaged in community service Saturday in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

Prior to his talk, Jett said he was impressed by the diverse group that turned out to clean and paint areas of the Sycamore Youth Center, sort canned goods at the Steubenville Salvation Army’s food pantry and assist elderly residents with work at their homes.

The projects were organized by the center, which received a Serve Ohio grant for the youth activities, said Bobbyjon Bauman, the center’s director.

The center also presented an online talent show featuring a variety of young local performers through its Facebook page.

After completing their various projects, the youth reconvened at the center to hear Jett, who also is founder of the Generation Now youth ministry. Jett reflected on King’s life, noting, “He’s more popular today than he was then (in his lifetime). He’s a hero now, but he was considered a troublemaker then.”

He noted many questioned whether King, as a clergyman, should have been involved in civil rights, which they perceived as a political issue. He said even today people often are hesitant to speak up when they see injustice for fear others will disapprove.

But Jett said God, through Psalm 82, instructs everyone to “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy.”

“He (King) used the word of God to form his philosophy on how to fight oppression ad segregation,” said Jett.

He told the youth they should speak up whenever they see someone mistreated, whether it’s on the playground or on Facebook.

“Don’t let them call you troublemaker or agitator for standing up for what’s right,” Jett advised.

He noted King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Jett said Black Americans reached milestones for freedom and equality through the efforts of Abraham Lincoln, King and others but the struggle for equality for all continues today.

“This is our leg of the relay. We have to deal with equality and how to walk together as brothers,” he said, adding, “Study the Word (of The Bible) and prepare yourself for what’s to come. It’s not going to be easy but it’s going to be great.”

As with many things during the pandemic, local celebrations normally held on Martin Luther King Day weekend were altered this year.

Restrictions on public gathering led to an annual march and prayer breakfast organized the Martin Luther King Jr. Association being canceled this year.

But the Steubenville group did organize a memorial service held Sunday evening at Mount Carmel Community Baptist Church and posted it on the church’s Facebook page.

It was led by the Rev. Buena Dudley Paschall, pastor of Quinn AME Church and founder of the Transformative Justice, Equity and Empowerment Initiative, an organization that promotes social justice through advocacy and ministry.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Association was established more than 40 years to promote the goals of the slain civil rights activist. Its efforts over the years have included the award of thousands of dollars in scholarships to local high school graduates.

On Sunday James Baber, the association’s president, said though the pandemic has curtailed various fundraising events, the group will continue to seek contributions to allow financially strapped residents to further their education.

The Steubenville Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also is slated to present a Youth Reflection program at 12:30 a.m. today. It is to be aired on local television and radio and livestreamed on the Steubenville NAACP Facebook page.

Events planned in Weirton today included a march at 11 a.m. along Weir Avenue and organized by the Dunbar Recreation Center and an exhibit from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center. It will focus on Dr. Anthony J. Major, who was honored in 2015 by the Martin Luther KIng Jr. State Holiday Commission.

Bethlehem Apostolic Temple of Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Temple of Weirton also were slated to team for a memorial service Sunday morning presented in person and virtually through the Facebook pages of the two churches and the Rev. Darrell W. Cummings, who delivered the message.

The service also included the presentation of Apostolic Temple’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award to Wheeling Fire Chief Larry Helms, Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott, Ohio County Sheriff Tom Howard, state Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio; and Mike Myer, the late executive editor of the Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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