ALBANY, Ga. -- Georgia Appeals Court Presiding Judge Herbert Phipps had a simple message for the crowd that gathered at the Albany Civic Center Monday evening to celebrate Martin Luther King Day -- "wake up."
"I notice the theme of the evening is 'Living the Dream, Dream with Vision, Live with Purpose,'" Phipps said. "Well I'd like to add another line -- 'After the Dream, the Work.' No oppressed people ever became free by dreaming about it. Wake up, get up and get to work. Any discussion of Martin Luther King usually leads to the talk of a dream ... well (King) had that, but he also had a plan with the purpose of solving racial injustice."
Phipps continued probing the dream.
"One may dream of going to college, starting a business or even becoming president," the judge said. "But what comes after the dream is more important because a dream without a plan will remain a dream forever and wind up in the cemetery of dead dreams.
"Dreams left unattended have short life expectancies. They all come with use by dates."
Phipps likened the dream to the story of Rip Van Winkle who slept for 20 years and missed the American Revolution.
"We've got some Rips among us today. Apathy, indifference, and a lack of concern are all symptoms of 'Ripism,' Phipps said. "Many have fallen asleep. Please look at yourself, look at your friends. If they are sleeping, shake them and wake them up. This is not a time for dreams. This is a time to live with a purpose and that is where the work comes in. Hard work, determination and persistence ... nothing else works."
The judge stressed that there was still much remaining to be done.
"The Albany Movement began in 1961 and merged with a larger national movement," Phipps said. "It's not over yet and if you think otherwise you have been led astray. Martin Luther King helped keep us awake for a while, but he's gone and many of us have fallen asleep again.
"Well, the baton has been passed to us, we can either drop it or finish the race."
Phipps then pointed out that the bulk of the Movement's work had been done by average citizens, adding that work is what is needed now.
"Never forget that ordinary people did the everyday work of the Movement," Phipps said. "We always seem to forget about the little people who risked everything for freedom. They paved the way for much of our progress today.
"Don't be like Rip and sleep through the revolution. Work at the community, city and state levels. Wake up and become a one-person force for justice."
Earlier in the evening, the MLK Day committee handed out Dream and Youth Service awards to five people.
Ashley Nichole Hardin of Lee County High School and Sahara Jade Bryant of Westover High School were tabbed as Youth Service Award Winners.
Picking up MLK Dream awards were Lucy Hazel Dunn, Chris Cohilas and USMC Master Sgt. (ret) Nathaniel Loman.