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NAACP celebrates King's life

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- A man who once sat at Dr. Martin Luther King's dinner table and brought back to Albany the spirit of the civil rights movement urged a gathering of NAACP supporters Monday to continue dreaming for a brighter future.

The Rev. H.C. Boyd, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church during the early 1960s, said he met King at Morehouse College and grew close to the Southern preacher as the civil rights movement picked up steam.

"If you take struggle out of life, you don't have anything else," Boyd said. "Life is a struggle, but if you can overcome it you can transform from victim to victor."

Boyd, who like most of the central figures of the civil rights movement garnered his fair share of threats and harasssement, said the movement was a scary time in the South but that pushing forward was too important to back down.

Saying the movement was ordained by God, Boyd said that sometimes following God's will means taking a stand, even if you stand alone.

"There are times when you stand tall even when the world is bowing down," he said. "And when the God I serve tells you to stand, you stand tall."

Boyd, who is carrying on the movement at age 80, has not let his age slow him down. By the end of his speech Monday, the Baptist preacher had brought the crowd at the Albany Civil Rights Institute to its feet.

The reverend was just one of many who spoke at the NAACP's King Celebration Monday.

One of the most emotional statements came from 86-year-old Gloria Wiggins, who worked with famed local attorney and civil rights leader C.B. King.

A native New Yorker, Wiggins moved to the South during a tumultuous time when being an outspoken person of color could have been a death sentence.

"My father cried the day I left because he felt sure that with my mouth, that if I moved South that I would be hung for sure," Wiggins said.

But love and the Marine Corps managed to snag her away from the Big Apple nonetheless, and she married her Marine husband at the local base in 1958.

Wiggins told those in attendance to celebrate the achievements of those who dared to ask for a chance at better opportunities while understanding that King's dream is still far from realized.

"I think it's better than it used to be, but there is still room for improvement," she said. "Rights and freedoms are something that must be protected daily for fear that they'll be stripped away."

The meeting also featured comments from local government officials.

Ward 3 City Commissioner Christopher Pike, who was just sworn in as a commissioner last week, thanked those who were a part of the movement for serving as the catalysts that today allow him, an African-American, the right to serve.

County Commissioner John Hayes too was thankful and said that the community should continue to work to move society forward while renewing efforts to cure social ills.

His collegue on the commission, Gloria Gaines, said the most true and fitting way to remember King was to practice the golden rule each and every day, a move she said would better society.

The NAACP's ceremony was one of several area remembrances of King, who would have turned 81 on Friday.