‘A day to dream,’ inspired by youth

MLK festivities continue at former Leak Street school

* Video of Thomas McDonald: “I Have a Dream”
* Video – Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Mime Team
* ‘Don’t let the dream die’
MLK Gala honors ‘Daddy the carpenter’
Changes for 2015 events
Rev. Tommy Legrand’s bio

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — Thomas McDonald is no ordinary man. He’s about to graduate from Richmond Community College. He’s president of the Student Government Association. And he’s father to six children: Shtavia, Daleesia, Xionxekiah, Julianne, Isaiah and Malachi.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Members of the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Mime Team perform Saturday night during the Youth Extravaganza at Leak Street Education Cultural Center in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Members of the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Mime Team perform Saturday night during the Youth Extravaganza at Leak Street Education Cultural Center in Rockingham.

So when he offered his own version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, given Aug. 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., McDonald hoped that each person inside what was the standing room-only auditorium of the Leak Street Education Cultural Center. The night was about the youth — it was, after all, the Youth Extravaganza — but McDonald was scheduled early on in the program. He wanted people to his hear message. Especially his children.

The 38-year-old delivered a powerful message with rhythm and rhyme in a two-minute and 57-second sermon that brought the audience to its feet for a rousing start to the two-hour program.

“I also have a dream,” McDonald began softly.

McDonald, like King, talked of modern social ills and mindsets that prevent a society — rich or poor, black or white — from moving forward. He spoke in simple eloquence with a crystal clear message.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rev. Tommy Legrand stands with his granddaughter, Raven Newton, on stage after Newton performed "Encourage Yourself."

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rev. Tommy Legrand stands with his granddaughter, Raven Newton, on stage after Newton performed “Encourage Yourself.”

“When my presence is made known, the color of my skin will stop blocking doors … but instead be voluntarily greeted with a smile,” McDonald said.

McDonald said he dreamed of a day when we “use every color in a crayon box,” one “that when I open the dictionary to find the definition of unity, I find ‘you and I‘ in bold letters.”

McDonald said he hoped for a day with “mothers being mothers and fathers being fathers,” and where “little boys stop making babies and little girls stop going boy crazy” — and where a quality of a man’s character is not judged by the value of the clothing on his back but “the ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am’ and showing respect when they speak.”

After McDonald, many of the younger members of the audience took their turns on stage. Rev. Tommy Legrand, a Marks Creek native who is being honored throughout this weekend’s programming as a pillar of the community, took his turn on the stage. But he was far from the focus of audience members’ attention. His granddaughter, Raven Newton — who already has earned a full ride to Bennett College in Greensboro — had the microphone in her hands.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Patrick Ellerbe performed twice, using music and dance to awaken the audience to a specific message of hope and empowerment.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Patrick Ellerbe performed twice, using music and dance to awaken the audience to a specific message of hope and empowerment.

Sounding like an 11-year-old Whitney Houston, Newton belted out her own version of Donald Lawrence‘s “Encourage Yourself.” The local crowd clearly preferred Newton’s version best as the Rockingham pre-teen serenaded her grandfather.

Legrand wasn’t on the program to speak, but at the end of Newton’s performance, he couldn’t help himself. Clearly his daughter, Faith Legrand-Steed, had done something right — and by extension so, perhaps, had he.

Legrand recalled performing on the same stage “50 or 60 years ago” as a member of Leak Street High School’s drama club, supervised then by Ruth Watkins. Legrand talked about the importance of education.

“This is the most greatest investment you can make,” Legrand said of children. “It’s not easy, but in the long run it can pay off. So much talent is falling through the cracks because we’re too busy doing nothing.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

The Leak Street stage was converted once again into a platform for the performing arts and a showcase of the talent that Richmond County youth have to offer. Singing, dancing and rap with a positive message captivated the audience from start to finish.

Performers included two youth groups from Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, including the Tiny Tots — Kennedy Hargrove, Josiah Quakenbush, LaKayla Patterson, Niasia Leadell and Yazisme Sturdivant — and the church’s mime team, comprised of Ajami Marks, Bryan Stanback, Cayce Hargrove, Destiny Rush, Mariah Waddell, Aniya Douglas, Misha Ray and Chakira Terry. The two groups performed under the direction of Melissa Stanback and Valjean Hargrove.

* MLK Commemoration steering committee member Bruce Stanback started off the program with a statement of recognition for the late Macie McQueen. McQueen died Nov. 23, 2014, at the age of 66. Before she died, however, Stanback said it was McQueen who insisted the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. steering committee do something to include the youth. Her insistence led to the start of the Youth Extravaganza at Leak Street Education Cultural Center.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Raven Newton sings "Encourage Yourself" to her grandfather, Rev. Tommy Legrand.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Raven Newton sings “Encourage Yourself” to her grandfather, Rev. Tommy Legrand.

“I know she’s looking down from Heaven above, and she’s pleased,” Stanback said.

Remaining schedule of events

* Sunday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. — Ecumenical Service at First United Methodist Church in Rockingham.

* Monday, Jan. 19 at noon — Luncheon at Sidney Grove Family Agape Center, 401 McIntyre Road, Ellerbe. Donations of $12 are requested to help cover event costs.

* Jan. 16 through Jan. 23 — Poster exhibits at Leath Memorial Library in Rockingham

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Raven Newton, 11, already has been offered a full ride to Bennett College in Greensboro based on her musical abilities.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Raven Newton, 11, already has been offered a full ride to Bennett College in Greensboro based on her musical abilities.

Filed in: Arts & Entertainment, Education, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Religion, Rockingham

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