Thursday, September 19, 2013
“I have a dream! I have a dream tonight!”
The voice of Rev. George E. McKain II came roaring over the sound system in St. Paul's Church.
The room turned to silence as women in evening gowns, men in tuxedos and children dressed in their Sunday best turned their heads and listened.
The immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are known as gospel in the United States, and last Saturday night at the Summerville National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter's Freedom Fund Banquet, the words were used to inspire a crowd of roughly 270 people to action yet again.
“My challenge for you tonight is to dream,” he said. “And there are dreamers in this room.”
The theme of the evening was “If I Dare 2 Dream.” It was designed to encourage the younger generations to accomplish their goals, according to Viola Nash, the co-chair of the event planning committee, but it also represented the Summerville NAACP's journey.
They dreamed to restart a local chapter after roughly a decade of inactivity, and it happened last November. They dreamed to hold a large-scale event to raise funds, membership and awareness, which culminated in the banquet. They dreamed to involve area youth, which is now known as the Summerville NAACP Youth Chapter, the first in the country.
“The theme was designed to show people they shouldn't be scared to dream because those dreams can come to reality. Martin Luther King had a dream and his dream is fulfilled day by day,” said Dexcter Mack, the chapter's president.
Rev. McKain's keynote speech began to pull that motivation out of the crowd, one zinger at a time:
“It's good to have a dream, but it's better when a dream becomes a reality,” he said.
“You've got to think in your sleep, that's when the dream comes.”
“It's a dream that says 'I can't see it, but I know it's there.'”
“Tonight we've got to start singing a new song.”
“It's about us being one people, one vision, one movement, one dream.”
His almost hour-long speech enraptured the crowd and by the end, Rev. McKain's silence was met with a standing ovation from the guests.
Raphael James, who co-hosted the event with fellow Live 5 News anchor Ann McGill, said out of all the events he's been invited to, “this is by far one of the best events I have ever had the privilege of attending.”
James wasn't the only one inspired though; According to Mack, the chapter had around 35 new members join by the end of the night. For planning committee co-chair Clifford Nash, this year's Freedom Fund Banquet has set the bar high for future events.
“It's been great, people have been enjoying everything and I wouldn't take anything less next year,” he said.
Nash said next year the committee will increase their goal from 300 guests, which they nearly met, to 400.
Besides the keynote speech, the banquet also featured a variety of entertainment, such as a catered dinner, silent auction, a portrait photographer, door prizes, live music and an awards ceremony.
“This has just exceeded my expectations,” said Viola Nash. “We've spent so much time planning this, it's great to finally see it all come together.”
But while the banquet was an ending point for some, it was just a beginning for others. Rev. McKain made that clear in his speech.
“We've got to celebrate where we've been, calculate where we're going, and cultivate a way to get there.
“Say it to yourself now… I have a dream!”