The most stirring moment of the 19th annual NAACP luncheon to honor Martin Luther King Jr. came when the lights dimmed and film clips of King as a young minister filled two large video screens. In his inimitable voice and style he spoke of "victories for justice" and his vision of equality. His youth and vigor seemed to energize the proceedings.
It was a memorable moment in a meeting — and a day — of memorable moments.
Held at Little America Monday, the NAACP event drew hundreds of supporters and honored a dozen local citizens.
Several Utahns were recognized at the luncheon. Joyce M. Gray, principal of West High School, was presented with the Rosa Parks Award. Gray, who began as a music teacher, has developed a reputation for being a voice of reason in education and a first-rate administrator. She has been named YWCA Woman of the Year, Principal of the Year and Woman of the Year for the state of Utah.
"Because God is first in my life, I'd like to thank him," she said. "I accept this award with great pride."
Fred Peake received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Award. Peake is the operations director for the Boys & Girls Club of Murray & Midvale, but he has also helped with many other organizations, including the Utah Arts Festival, Utah Juvenile Justice Commission and the Salt Lake Merchants Association.
Larry Miller presented the annual Jazz Scholarship award to Tamika Hardy, a West High athlete and scholar. He praised her "high character" and ability to "appreciate people from all backgrounds." Hardy is a former Deseret News Prep of the Week and a KSL Athlete of the Month.
Several students were also recognized for winning the Martin Luther King, Jr. essay competition.
Speakers at the luncheon were William Haley, son of author Alex Haley, and John H. Jackson, director of education for the NAACP.
Haley spoke about all American history being a quest for freedom and then declared, "We're all good people who got off the path."
He spoke of the divine nature of equality and offered a touching anecdote about his father. Alex Haley kept a picture of a turtle on a fence post above his desk, the younger Haley said, to remind him that "when you see a turtle on a fence post, you know it had help getting there."
Jackson delivered a no-holds-barred speech about education.
"I never thought I'd be in Salt Lake City on Martin Luther King's holiday giving a speech," Jackson said, who then went on to say later, "The dream is over, it's time to wake up. Wake up, Salt Lake City."
"God does not need supernatural individuals to carry out his plan," Jackson said. "He just needs ordinary people who are committed."
He stressed education and challenged the gathering to do better.
"We've asked each state to submit a five-year equity plan," he said.
Several others addressed the group, including Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and Utah Lt. Gov. Olene Walker. Tri-state Conference President Edward Lewis served as the master of ceremonies at the luncheon. Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP, officiated and offered remarks.