Teen warms crowd at Camden King event
By Chris Day
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
CAMDEN — About 100 people, all dressed for an icy westerly wind and temperatures in the low 20s, turned out to march and pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. in Camden County on Monday.
Inside Camden County High School, a teenager gave a fiery speech that warmed the audience.
Despite the cold, the sun was shining and, according to one attendee, it was a good day for fellowship.
“It’s a great day to be gathered together,” said Kevin Lighty, pastor of Samuel Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. Lighty was speaking in the cafeteria of Camden County High School, where residents had gathered for the 18th annual Camden County MLK Jr. Unity Celebration. The event began promptly with a march from Grandy Primary School up N.C. Highway 343 to the high school.
Lynori Griffin, a 17-year-old senior at Camden Early College High School, told the audience that in preparing her keynote address she asked herself, “What does Martin Luther King’s legacy mean to me?”
Griffin opened by discussing the wave of nationwide protests against racism that began when she was 13 years old. In the following years she kept up with the news, watching headline after headline about another black person shot and killed in an incident with police. While she couldn’t participate in the protest marches she found another way to voice her opposition.
“My afro was my protest,” Griffin said, referring to her hairstyle. “I wore it proudly and I still do.”
In learning more about her culture and heritage, Griffin said one thing occurred to her: “I realized that I had never faced racism head on.”
She said she listened to her grandparents, who told her stories of having to pick cotton and having to attend “separate but equal” schools.
“Of course systemic racism affects us all but I had never had my ambitions suppressed because of the color of my skin,” she said.
Griffin said she felt guilty, asking why was it fair that she enjoyed great relationships with her white teachers, while young black men like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Philando Castile had to die?
“Now of course I can blame God’s favor upon my life but I also have to take into account Dr. King and his legacy,” Griffin said, looking up from the lectern. “It’s because of him that some parts of this country are a little bit better than others.
“It’s because of him, a young black girl in a predominantly white school, is not dismissed and sent to the back, but instead given the opportunities to succeed,” she said.
Silence filled the cafeteria as Griffin reached her conclusion.
“So, ‘what does Dr. King’s legacy mean to me?’” she asked once again.
“It means that I am allowed to be my ancestors’ wildest dreams. It means that we may have a bigot in office trying to build walls, but because of Dr. King, I have the strength to break down doors,” she said, drawing a rising response from the audience.
“Dr. King’s legacy has placed the responsibility upon me to be the best I can be, because I am not just fighting for me. I am fighting for Harriet Tubman and Emmett Till and Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks,” she said.
“I am fighting so the next generation doesn’t have to. I am a representation of Dr. King’s legacy. So, I will continue to take my responsibility and break down barriers,” she said. “I will continue to be ‘the girl with the afro.’”