Mency delivered a dramatic rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech from memory before a crowd of about 470 people, capping off the ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Celebration inside the Athletic, Recreation and Community Center at Hagerstown Community College.
Mency, who completely immerses himself in the role when he takes the stage, has taken part in the annual celebration to commemorate King’s birthday each year since 2004. It’s a humbling experience to perform before the community, he said.
“I’m at a loss for words every time I get done,” said Mency, an elder at Greater Campher Temple in Hagerstown. “It’s a multicultural event, and it really represents Dr. King’s dream, because his dream was not only to African-American people, but ... a call to America’s consciousness — wake up, embrace everybody, embrace all our differences.”
Ellen Smith, co-chairwoman of HCC’s multicultural committee, which hosts the event, said it’s important for everyone to take a day to remember one of the most prominent icons of the U.S. civil rights movement.
“(King’s) story was probably the nexus of what led to a great deal of change in our country,” said Smith, who has helped plan the event since its start. “Celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday is a wonderful way of remembering events and retelling that story.”
In addition to Mency’s reading, the event featured several musical and poetic performances, as well as a keynote address by Vicky Bullett, a highly decorated basketball player for the University of Maryland, two U.S. Olympic teams and two WNBA teams.
A native of Martinsburg, W.Va., Bullett won Olympic gold in 1988 and bronze in 1992, and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. She serves as an assistant coach for the HCC women’s basketball team.
“It’s really an honor to have the opportunity to share and express how Dr. King’s dream made an impact on my life,” Bullett said during her address. “Every individual has a purpose in life, and with every passing year, I have a greater understanding of the magnitude of Dr. King’s achievement.”
Smith said the committee takes the better part of the fall semester to plan and tries to include a new cultural aspect in each year’s event. This year, that was a presentation about Africa’s Ivory Coast by Siriki Diabate, a former HCC student who served as president of the school’s International Club.
“Diversity is a critical component of our culture,” said attendee Joe Marschner, an assistant professor of music and drama at HCC. “I think more and more every year we’re learning that, and we’re a stronger (nation) for it.”
Carolyne Sterling of Hagerstown joined the crowd in the lobby of the ARCC afterward for refreshments. Sterling, an HCC alumna, said she always attends the event, and called it an enjoyable and uplifting experience.
“I love the atmosphere,” she said. “The singing is always inspirational, and every song had a message to it that all fell in line with what Dr. King would want for us.”
With King’s revolutionary vision in mind, Bullett stressed that every person has a purpose in life, and King’s work will never be forgotten.
“Many special people have touched my life, just as Dr. King’s dream touched our hearts,” Bullett said. “We all must realize that without his determination and persistent effort to make a difference, where would we be as a nation?”