CANTON — When he was younger, Michael Pressley Sr. wondered why his father wasn’t angry about the treatment he received as a black man.
Pressley thought his father must be angry. His father worked hard and served his country in World War II, but he was not treated as an equal. Eventually, Pressley understood why his father wasn’t angry.
“He was able to keep hope alive,” Pressley said Saturday at the 47th annual celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community of Canton.
“Keep Hope! The Fight Continues!” was the theme of the party. Pressley, who is pastor of Mount Zion Church of God in Christ, said the theme reminded him of his father and how he dealt with the treatment of black Americans in the 1950s and 1960s.
Pressley said his dad keeps hope alive as he watches his kids grow up and start living the dream. But the dream did not come true and there are fears that hope is fading for some black Americans.
Education is the key to keeping hope alive, Pressley said. He praised the Leila Green Alliance of Black School Educators, which organized the event, for choosing “keeping hope alive” as the theme.
During the program, Jeffery S. Talbert, Superintendent of Schools for the City of Canton, said educators are the brokers of hope and can spark the dreams of young people.
Talbert encouraged young people to embrace the struggle and learn from it. “Success doesn’t come to you on a silver platter. Hope is the product of who we are,” he said.
The importance of education came to life with the recipients of the annual MLK Awards for Outstanding Community Service. Each worked as an educator in the community.
The awards were given to:
- Ellen Camper, Queen of Esther Village board chair and community activist who worked in several school districts as a substitute teacher after a career as a programmer at Hoover Co.
- Karen Kalk Okey, school secretary for Early College in Lehman.
- Susan D. Scheetz, student services secretary at Crenshaw Middle School.
- Lighthouse Ministries, at 1931 Third St. SE, to provide educational programs for neighborhood children.
- Myra Watkins, community activist and former teacher and administrator of Canton City Schools.
Saturday’s schedule was delayed several days due to heavy snowfall that hit the Canton area and northeast Ohio on Monday.