WARREN - About 300 people gathered Saturday for the 26th annual luncheon to salute the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., hosted by Trumbull County Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
State Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, served as keynote speaker for the event at DiVieste Banquet Hall in Warren.
"I'm really honored to have been asked to speak," Turner said. "The fact that I'm able, in the 21st century, to hold a high office is because all the people who have come before me. People like A. Philip Randolph, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer and a lot of unknown folks. So, I'm very honored to join them tonight in celebration of the work of Dr. King and other freedom fighters."
Tribune Chronicle / Ashley Newman
State Sen. Nina Turner of Cleveland’s 25th District speaks Saturday afternoon during a salute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at DiVieste Banquet Hall in Warren.
Turner, a senator of Cleveland's 25th District, stressed to those in attendance the importance of remembering community leaders who paved the way.
"As we look at the 50-year anniversary of the civil rights movement, it is important for the African-American community and all Americans to remember the journey. What it took for us to get here. There were a lot of sweat, blood and tears, but we are here.
''We must continue to build on the struggle of our foreparents and continue to guarantee a brighter future for African Americans and all people," Turner said. "That was really what the civil rights movement was all about."
Also during the ceremony, a community service award was given to Deryck Toles, CEO and founder of Inspiring Minds, a program designed to better the lives of under-represented youth in the Warren community.
"Deryck Toles and Inspiring Minds has done an incredible amount of good work within the county," Timothy Callion, Trumbull County APRI president, said. "They've worked with young kids, inspired them to fulfill their dreams and prepare them for college. They do a lot of scholarships every year, as well as after school programs and a summer enrichment program that they started."
Darryl B. Parker, president of United Steel Workers Local 1375, was named an honorary chairman of the institute.
"We wanted to honor that local and its president simply for the work they've done over the years and give special recognition, because what they are going through now with the closing of that (Warren RG) steel mill," Callion said.
"Even though that is very depressing for the entire community, Mr. Parker is still working with his members to make sure they are receiving the training and have the opportunities and benefits that they have coming," he said.
Tickets were $30 each to attend the luncheon, proceeds which benefit future work in the community according to Callion.
"Each year, we award college scholarships to deserving students," he said. "The proceeds from this event will go toward that. We will be presenting those scholarships sometime in July."
Meanwhile, the national Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be observed Jan. 21, a date which should give the community an opportunity to reflect on past accomplishments and the future of the movement he started, according to Turner. She noted her rise from poverty to national prominence is, in-part, due to those leaders who have come before.
"The strength of Asa Philip Randolph, for whom this institute was named, and the fact that he had the vision to marry the labor struggle with the civil rights struggle that all people, regardless of their ethnicity or their gender," Turner said. "They just want their opportunity to live their measure of the American dream.
"I grew up in a poor family. I'm the oldest of seven children. My mother died at the age of 42 years old. I'm a first generation college graduate and she never lived to see me attain my degree.
''So, every step of the way and with every achievement, I think of her and what she meant to me as a mother. It means a lot to me to be at events like this, because it reminds me how hard my journey was," she said.