There are so many reasons to be thankful in 2022, and so many lessons were learned in 2021. What we can’t do is give up now!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, and we are a product of his existence and his drive to make our world a better place.

This held true for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, as West Volusia celebrated with many key events to keep Dr. King’s legacy alive.

JoJo, a Star 94.5 FM radio personality and West Volusia native, was the mistress of ceremonies at the MLK Day Luncheon Celebration in Deltona.

Keynote speaker Volusia County Council Member Barb Girtman wore her signature blue and encouraged everyone to “let … go of any grudges that you are bringing into the new year.”

“Courage, Dedication, Inspiration and Passion” was this year’s theme, and those in attendance left captivated with inspiration and hope.

Jane K. Shang, a true humanitarian and former Deltona city manager, who has supported more than 30 charitable organizations and remains a community advocate, received the Gus Dowels Humanitarian Award.

“Sometimes you have to go against bias and culture,” Shang said in her acceptance speech.

Immediately following were the soulful sounds of Dr. Kevin Cooper singing “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Elijah Whitaker, a Deltona Middle School student and nephew of Sean King, West Volusia Branch of the NAACP president, recited Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech with much passion. It left many audience members jumping to their feet.

Michael Williams, a member of the Deltona MLK Celebration Committee and longtime community activist, closed the program with words of encouragement for what lies ahead.

The day did not come to a close without DeLand’s annual MLK worship service at City Sanctuary Church in DeLand, with Pastor Mark Schrade sharing words of appreciation for having a long-standing relationship with the many clergy members in West Volusia as we celebrate as one each year.

The Rev. Dr. Wendell Raulerson began the worship experience with high energy and open arms to the public.

Many were recognized for their service to social justice, such as DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar and Bishop Demetris Pressley.

Many engaged in the celebration by standing and clapping their hands as the MLK Community Ensemble led by Andre Darby, international artist and long-standing community member, blessed the stage.

In true form, the MLK Children’s Ensemble put additional smiles on the faces of many with their rendition of “I Have a Dream,” written by Cheryl Whitted and led by Althea Chavers.

The evening ended with nationally recognized speaker of the hour Bishop Paul S. Morton, who delivered the empowering sermon “Don’t Get Weary.”

“Dr. King knew that if he let evil in, it would defeat the purpose,” Morton stated.

This is the time when everyone can take the opportunity to use what has been learned from this celebration to create a platform of real change for West Volusia.

Let us celebrate unity all year long.

— Cameron, a longtime educator, lives in Orange City. Send email to cameronchronicleslive@gmail.com.

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