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Salute to Dr. King focuses on kids

WARREN — The 34th annual salute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. focused on inspiring the younger generation to live as Dr. King did.

The Trumbull County Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s annual salute reminds the community of Dr. King’s mission to improve the lives of all Americans and this year its focus was children.

The event featured State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, as this year’s keynote speaker. Sykes represents Ohio’s 34th House district and serves as minority leader in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Sykes reiterated this year’s theme “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” in her speech talking about excellence and mediocrity.

“It is mediocre when society does not spend the time and effort to build strong children and prefer to repair broken men. Too many people in our communities lack affordable health care and access to a great education. There is violence in too many of our neighborhoods and undue obstacles at the ballot box. Too many young people leave our state in search of a better life and a brighter future … We also understand that there is a lot more work that we need to do to ensure that every Ohioan has a real chance at living their American dream,” Sykes said.

“Unfortunately, too many people, especially young people, do not have someone or a group of someones like the Academy, or the Focus Building to instill and reinforce the idea that they can succeed and achieve excellence. That’s why it’s so important to build strong children rather than to repair broken men. We must spend the time to instill excellence in our kids, and give them the ability to reject mediocre activities and minds not only for themselves, but for the betterment of our communities, because they are counting on us to show them and to guide them.

The Academy, led by Pastor Alton Merrell, and the Focus Group, led by Pastor Todd Johnson, have done exceptional work in improving the lives of young people and were awarded the Community Service Award at the salute.

“You all need to stop holding these children accountable for what you have not taught them,” Merrell said. “One thing that really upsets my apple cart is when I hear people saying ‘children are not like they used to be.’ I simply say parents are not like they used to be. And I say because truth, integrity, respect does not change. And how do you teach a child to do that? By first of all, you got to model it. And if you develop a relationship with them, they will go through almost anything for you.”

Pastor Johnson added that although the Warren he grew up in looks different, he still believes in it and wants to build it up as a community where people can have hope.

“We believe in the city we were raised in. We’re strong and we’re resilient. We want to empower people, we want to innovate. We want to remind everybody that there is a generation coming behind us, and we’re on fire. We want to see things happen. We’re a little aggressive, little outspoken, but that’s because Dr. King said there is the fierce urgency of now. And in our church, our theme this year is ‘now is the time,’ we can’t wait another year. We can’t wait another decade. We’re not even waiting for another president. We’re going to make changes right now so that the rest of the world can catch up with us,” Johnson said.

bshiller@tribtoday.com

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