The 100 guests attending the annual Martin Luther King Jr. program of the Bridgeville Civic League on Monday spanned four generations — from toddlers and students to adults and senior citizens. Among them, one was selected for a special honor.
Dorothy Price, 86, received a proclamation from U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, for decades of service with the Civic League, founded in 1949 by her father, the late John D. Wilson, and the McCormick family. The league was founded with the mission to “link all generations, races and religious denominations in a spirit of cooperation through programs and events that will improve the communities in which we live.”
Mrs. Price did not know she would be honored.
“I thank you for this surprise,” said Mrs. Price, “I was also surprised to see my son and daughter here.”
She said she would like to “honor all the people who worked with my father” in the years before Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. “It’s been tough, but we have come so far. We had a lot of fun and a lot of tears.”
The First Baptist Church of Bridgeville has been involved with the Civic League from the beginning, said Winnie Love, president of the league. The event was held at the Bethany Presbyterian Church in Bridgeville. The two churches have long had a relationship, said John Hamilton, pastor of Bethany Presbyterian, because “love breaks down walls.”
The league works to help the needy, operating a food bank, and it also awards the Wilson McCormick Scholarship. “I would say we have given out a quarter-million dollars” over the years, Mr. Love said.
Mr. Love said he would like to see more teaching of black history. The teaching should be done both in schools and at home, Mr. Love said. “In our lives there is not enough black history. I work with my 14 grandchildren, trying to give them all I can.”
Many of Mr. Love’s grandchildren were at the program, including a toddler, but not all the youth were related to Mr. Love.
Deon Spann, 12, and D’Andre “Dre” Collier, 15, were there with their foster mother, Mary Ann Stephens of Knoxville.
Ms. Stephens who grew up in the Bridgeville area said, “I remember Mr. Wilson.”
Dre, whose favorite subjects are math and science, is a voracious reader and has learned about Martin Luther King Jr. at school. But he thinks more black history should be taught in all schools.
Both attend Pittsburgh Public Schools, which were closed Monday for the holiday. Though the program took a big chunk out of their day off from school, Deon said, “I think it’s pretty cool.”
They were attentive throughout the program, which included four songs by a group of five men in black suits and white shirts — Voices For Christ. With strong vocals and impeccable harmonizing, their singing and dance moves were reminiscent of '60s and '70s groups such as The Temptations and Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. But the lyrics were about love and faith.
Deon and Dre clapped and smiled approvingly at the end of the performance.
The main speaker was Tim Stevens, a lifelong activist whose resume says he has long been concerned “with the disenfranchisement of the black community in Pittsburgh politics.” He has served as president of the NAACP in Pittsburgh and founded the Black Political Empowerment Project — B-PEP — whose goals include working toward universal voter registration of African-Americans and high voter turnout in elections.
Mr. Stevens said his subject was “realizing the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.,” and he repeatedly quoted the nation’s first African American president.
“We are indeed faced with the fierce urgency of now,” said Mr. Stevens, using the words of President Barack Obama. He also noted that the president has called for everyone to make service a part of their daily lives. Social change and commitment does not come about without activism, Mr. Stevens said.
He said he started B-PEP in 1985 “because there were no blacks on Pittsburgh City Council.”
“Do you realize how powerful we would be if we voted in each and every election?” Mr. Stevens asked four generations of people, most of them African-American. “Move from complaint to possibility. ... from planning to implementation to mobilization. Work within your schools and communities.”
Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-722-0087.