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Davis urges King Day audience: Be better stewards of your time

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The Rev. William T. Davis delivers the keynote address during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at John A. Holmes High School, Monday.

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By Nicole Bowman-Layton
Chowan Herald

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

EDENTON — The Rev. William T. Davis urged Chowan County residents attending the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Edenton on Monday to be better stewards of their time, by picking the right tables at which to sit.

Davis, an attorney and pastor at New Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Camden County, said he was humbled and grateful to be a part of Monday’s celebration at John A. Holmes High School.

“I was here a few years ago,” he said. “I have mixed feelings when I’m asked to speak at an event again. Either I did OK, or I really messed up and you have extended grace to me to give me a chance to redeem myself.”

Davis based his remarks on a story in 2 Samuel in which King David feels blessed by God and wants to share his blessings with others. So he asks a servant if there are any living relatives of his former enemy, Saul.

The servant knows of Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson who is unable to walk and lives in Lo Debar. David calls for Mephibosheth to live at the palace and eat at his table for the rest of his life.

For a modern-day equivalent of the story, Davis pointed to an event a few months ago, when 20 black pastors and other religious leaders visited the White House to discuss prison reform with President Donald Trump. The meeting ended up being a briefing, in which no one was able to ask questions, Davis said.

“After the meeting, there was no vision of reform. ... No one talked about their goals,” he said. “We did hear that during the meeting Pastor Darrell Scott from Ohio say that in his opinion Trump was the most pro-black president we’ve ever had in his lifetime.”

The visit has sparked a debate over whether the 20 African-American pastors should have been seated at Trump’s table, Davis said. Some say absolutely not, that attending was a sellout of black people, Davis said.

He said others, however, have noted what King said: “To encourage the table, you have to sit at the table.”

While Davis didn’t take a stand on the pastors’ visit to the Trump White House, he believes they should have been better stewards of their time.

“I challenge you to be a steward of your presence,” Davis urged the audience. “You have to better manage where you show up because there are those who will use your presence for their own agenda.”

Prior to Davis’ remarks, Dr. Emma Bonner recalled how she met King several times. In the early 1960s, she was among a group of protesters who were arrested after picketing outside a segregated drug store.

“They did not get anybody from the NAACP (on the phone), so they called the SCLC (Southern Leadership Conference) and Dr. King,” she said. “He called and had a lawyer from New York come down to get us released from jail.”

Another time she spoke with King happened during the early 1960s while she was marching in Canton, Mississippi. Every night, someone in the civil rights movement had to change rooms with King because of the death threats he received. Bonner said she also attended King’s funeral after he was assassinated in 1968.

But the memory that sticks out the most for her was when King came to Edenton.

“Of course I would never forget the time that he appeared at the Armory and he spoke to us all,” Bonner said. “He told us to do the best we could do. He said, ‘Even if you are a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be. ... Be the best of all the past and future generations.’”

Also preceding Davis at the podium was Cole Phelps, an attorney and Washington County commissioner who reminded the audience why King is celebrated.

“This is a day to unite in interracial sisterhood and brotherhood,” he said. “This is a day of reflection, to determine whether we’re living King’s dream.”

Phelps said that without King’s dream, people wouldn’t be able to date who they wanted, be friends with who they wanted, or gather in the Holmes auditorium as one group.

“King said life’s most important question is what are you doing for others. It’s not ‘what are others doing to you’ or ‘what are other doing for you,’” Phelps said. “I challenge you to think about what you are doing to further Martin Luther King’s dream.”

Phelps said King’s dream is under attack.

“His dream is now our fight,” he said. “We must fight for racial equality.”

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