The NAACP of Chapel Hill-Carrboro celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a virtual event Monday morning, which premiered on its YouTube channel.

The virtual celebration included pre-recorded videos from the UNC Gospel Choir, an interview with School of Law professor and Civil Rights Center director Theodore M. Shaw, a poem by speaker Soteria Shepperson and more.

The Rev. Clarke French, fifth rector of Holy Family Church, helped organize the virtual event through the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Religious Affairs Committee. French also conducted the interview with Shaw.

“Each year we are responsible for delivering a program on MLK Day,” he said. “It was a really fun project to get everyone together. We all recorded at different times and the service was put together.

In a nearly three-decade career as a lawyer, Shaw has argued cases on education, housing, capital punishment and suffrage. From 1979 to 1982, he argued civil rights cases nationwide at various levels, including before the United States Supreme Court, as an attorney with the United States Department of Justice.

Shaw joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1982.

In an interview with The Daily Tar Heel, Shaw spoke about honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy, while acknowledging that some of the same issues are still present today.

“We remember the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., and we also place that in the context of the continued struggle for civil and human rights,” he said.

Shaw said that in thinking about some of the events that have taken place, such as the attacks on synagogues and the Capitol riot on January 6, it is important to continue to fight injustice.

“These things that I’ve talked about will continue to happen if we don’t affirmatively continue the fight for civil and human rights,” Shaw said. “It does not happen surreptitiously. It’s a fight, it’s a fight. »

The interview with Shaw was recorded on January 5, and all other segments of the video project were recorded on Monday and Tuesday of last week. Although the video project had many moving parts and had to be edited together for the event, French said it was important to find a way to come together for the day.

French said it was a privilege to speak with Shaw.

“I’m always humbled when I spend time with people who lived, worked and stood up for those important years of the civil rights movement,” French said. “I wanted to know from him where he sees hope and bright lights ahead of him in the work that is currently underway.”

“Choose Hope”

Orange County Commissioner Anna Richards said commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day is especially difficult this year because of ongoing civil rights struggles.

“So much of what Dr. King stood for and worked for and fought against, we watch disintegrate before our eyes,” she said. “His family has suggested this year that we commemorate him by pushing for the passage of voting rights legislation that is currently stalled in Congress.”

Martin Luther King III, eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr., called on Congress to pass suffrage legislation during a news conference Monday in Washington, D.C.

Richards said it’s important to keep in mind the value of democracy, liberty, and freedom for all Americans, and that everyone has a role to play.

“One of the things Professor Shaw said today is that he chooses hope, not despair,” she said. “Once you choose hope, you hopefully commit to taking certain actions to help achieve the desired outcome you are hoping for.”

Other events in Carrboro for the holidays included a planned youth service on Jan. 15 and a community park cleanup that was rescheduled for Sunday, Jan. 30.


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