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Ceremony honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy

By Joycelyn Biggs | | January 16, 2014


“Beneath the Bars of Justice,” a historical fiction book written by Sandra Webb in 1987, tells the story of a 13-year-old girl, who defies her parents and participates in one of the Albany Civil Rights Movement marches in July 1962.

She was arrested along with 66 other teenaged girls.

Webb’s initial attempts to publish her book were unsuccessful. Her story was untold for more than 20 years. Webb would eventually attend a seminar on book publishing, and in August of 2012, her dream became a reality.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Webb did not give up on her dream.

Webb was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ceremony sponsored by Blacks in Government, Marine Corps Logistics Command and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.

The event took place Tuesday at the Base Chapel.

The program included several selections from the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany Gospel Choir, which brought attendees to their feet in celebration.

“This was a great program,” Shaquanis Johnson, BIG vice president, said. “I really enjoyed it. Miss Webb’s speech was very interesting.”

During her speech, Webb reminded the audience of the turbulent times in the 60s and the struggles African-Americans endured fighting for equality.

“Negros in Albany could not use the public library, could not eat at white establishments, (they) had to sit in the balcony of the segregated Albany Theater entering through a dark and narrow alleyway,” she said. “(They) went to segregated schools, lived in segregated communities often on unpaved streets and in substandard housing.”

Webb referred to a 2010 census to point out disparities that still exist today in our communities.

“The median annual income for a white family is fifty four thousand, six hundred and twenty dollars, while for a black family it is thirty two thousand, sixty eight dollars,” she said. “Black people living below the poverty line is 27.4 percent, but only 9.9 percent of white people are below that line.

“Black people who hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree are 19.7 percent, while 32.6 percent of white people have such a designation,” she continued. 

“Although we may not be where we should be, or want to be, or expected to be, we have a lot to celebrate and embrace,” Webb added, referring to the number of blacks who now hold political office. 

At the time of King’s death, there was one African-American U.S. senator and six members in the House of Representatives.

In 2014, there are two U.S. Senators and 43 members in the House of Representatives. In 1968, there were no African-American governors; in 2014 there are two, Webb said.

There is a tremendous increase in the number of African-Americans in corporate America in executive positions, head coaching positions in college and professional sports, blacks owning sports teams and an African-American was elected and re-elected as the president of the United States of America, Webb pointed out.

 “We must invest in our community in order to continue making these strides,” Webb said. “My favorite quote from Doctor King is ‘What are you doing for us?’ We must invest everything we have to change the economic and social stratosphere of black America. I don’t mean by investing in the stock market, but in our young people, our children.”

Webb said she wrote the book so young people, in particular, will be reminded, although progress has been made in the area of civil rights, blacks should never forget what they went through to get to this point, and there is still work to be done.