The Rev. Walter C. Barrett III’s voice rose and fell like a roiling ocean’s waves hitting the beach, rhythmically, growing in intensity and rapidity and then crashing like a breaker on his audience, flooding the room with exhortations to do, to serve and to dream.
“Whatever you do, don’t stop doing. However you serve, don’t stop serving. Whatever you dream, don’t stop dreaming. And let nobody kill your dream,” he admonished the estimated 200 people who sat in folding chairs in the Carver Recreation Center’s auditorium Monday afternoon.
“Look to your neighbor and say, ‘neighbor, don’t let nobody kill your dream!’ Now say it to yourself. Even if your dream doesn’t happen at first, you keep dreaming,” implored Barrett, the pastor of West Bottom Baptist Church, a traditionally African American congregation in Fluvanna County. “It doesn’t matter where you’re at. It doesn’t matter if you live in a mansion. It doesn’t matter if you live in the projects. You just keep dreaming. A dreamer can dream anywhere.”
The guest speaker brought home the day’s message at the seventh annual “Continuing His Dream and Works” ceremony honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The event was organized by Charlottesville motivational speaker and civil rights activist Charles “Alex-Zan” Alexander and emceed by NBC29 news reporter Daniel Grimes.
The message was echoed in song and prose, starting with a tape of King’s famous 1963 speech in which he recounted his dream of racial equality. In the speech, King referred to the Declaration of Independence promise of “unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as a “promissory note” for its citizens.
“Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked insufficient funds,” King’s voice called over the public address system prior to the ceremony. “But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”
The event included inspirational music from the West Bottom Baptist Church Praise Team and vocalist Ti Ames, a dance presentation by 9-year-old Zania Mills and the bestowing of the Alicia B. Lugo Award to Ann Wicks Carter.
Lugo was a local entrepreneur, activist, educator and community leader who served as a board member for a plethora of organizations and as a member of the Charlottesville School Board for 11 years, including five years as chairwoman.
“Alicia B. Lugo stood for showing up, stepping up and speaking up,” Alexander said. “She exemplified Dr. King’s belief in dreaming and serving.”
Carter, a contemporary of Lugo, has been active in the community and local civil rights for decades. She has served as a historian for the community.
While the past is important, it’s only prologue, she said. The experiences of community elders need to be passed down to the younger generation.
“You can’t do something you want to last and expect it to last unless you bring your young folks along,” she said when accepting the award.
In his address, Barrett said the effort to obtain social justice and equality continues and should include everyone, regardless of age or race.
“There is plenty of work to be done. There is work for everyone. When you are at home in your neighborhood, just ask what you can do to assist,” he said.
“It’s not about black. It’s not about white. It’s about all of us. The same God who helps you is the same God who helps me,” he said. “Now is the time to come together. We can’t wait for next month or next year. The time is right now.”