In an event filled with motivation, encouragement and song, the Greater Texarkana Branch of the NAACP celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday Monday at Dunbar Elementary School.
Keynote speaker was Armani Valentino, Texarkana-based bestselling author and inspirational speaker who encouraged attendees to seek peace and joy in bettering their communities.
"Dr. King had a dream. We must have a plan," he said. "If there's no joy in your heart, there is no hope for a better future. For a better future, you make up in your mind that you will do your part to advance and make yourself better, your community and your nation a better place. Why is advancement important? Advancement only happens when people are committed to advance and move forward in a purposeful way. There is no advancement without purpose."
He detailed several issues that need to be addressed in Texarkana, including housing, jobs, addiction, lack of education and mindset of mediocrity.
"Advancement takes commitment" Valentino said. "It only happens if everyone stays committed."
He also encouraged everyone to get an education to better their lives and those of their families.
"In Texarkana we have three colleges—two community colleges and one four-year university," Valentino said. "You can take your whole tax refund check and pay for your associate's degree. Are we giving this information to people who need it? Are we encouraging them? Are we supporting them like we're supposed to be, or are we watching them walk aimless throughout our community? It's easy to talk about but it's hard to make a plan."
Reflecting on the current state of the black community in Texarkana, he said that everyone should honor those who sacrificed for the freedoms they now have.
"We've turned our backs on the ancestors who gave their lives to read, just to be able to read. To vote. And those who changed the course of our community, our nation and our world at large," he said. "Every movement that we have been part of has changed the world. Advancement only happens if somebody stays committed."
Megan Gibson, 2019 Miss Texarkana, also gave a short presentation and music was provided by The Scholars and the Zion District East End Youth Fellowship.
The next meeting of the NAACP will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 2 at Oak Street Baptist Church.