It only took one day for a group of students at North Carolina A&T State University to make change when they refused to take no for an answer.
A group of community members reenacted the bravery of the Greensboro Four during Monday’s Dr. Martin Luther King celebration at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center, put on by the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce’s Multi-Cultural Business Committee. On Feb. 1, 1960, the students went to the Woolworth store in Greensboro, purchased items and refused to leave after being denied service at the lunch counter because they were black.
“They didn’t realize the impact it was going to have in our lives,” said committee member Dr. Ted Thomas about the skit, which featured narration by Dee Bryant.
On the following day, 20 more students joined and by the fourth, it was up to 300. Rep. Dr. Larry Bell did not attend the sit-in on the first day, but was one of many students who later joined the protests.
“Everything looked so real and it brought back so many memories about what happened in Greensboro,” Bell said to the audience about the skit.
The protest extended to Greensboro’s Kress store and other towns in North Carolina and throughout the South. After losing revenue, the Woolworth was desegregated and served black and white customers.
“In one day, everything can change the world and in one day, it did,” Thomas said referring to the sit-in.
Like the A&T Four, King refused to let discrimination win when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the mid-1950s after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. As a result of his leadership segregation ended for the bus system. In 1963, he led the March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The following year, the Civil Rights Act was passed and King became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thomas made a request for everyone to stand together as he read a portion of “I Have a Dream.” When he raised up his hand everyone said “One Day” in unison during different parts of the ceremony.
“Let this one day be a day when we can make a change in our lives,” Thomas said. “Let that one day be today.”
The 16th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Business Reception was hosted by the Chamber’s Multi-Cultural Business Committee with assistance from many local organizations and individuals, who made remarks about the Civil Rights icon.
After the Greensboro sit-in skit, longtime educator Hazel Colwell and Clinton Mayor Lew Starling were honored with the MLK Image Award for their service to the community. Previous recipients include Bell, Jefferson Strickland, John Blanton, Ann Thornton, Maxine Harris, Dee Bryant, Sheriff Jimmy Thornton, Paul Viser, Malachi Faison, Bill Scott and First Citizens Bank, Jim Matthews and Dr. Ted Thomas.
Prior to receiving the award, Starling stressed the importance of helping others and referenced how GPS maps are widely used today to guide people. He said notices from churches can serve as a “GPS” to assisting people throughout the community.
“Our Lord and Martin Luther King have urged us that life’s most persistent question is what are you doing for others,” Starling said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.