PIQUA — “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
Shane Carter, executive director of the Lincoln Community Center in Troy, referenced that quote from Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech during his own speech at the YWCA’s eighth annual Martin Luther King celebration event. Carter explained that was one of the quotes that stuck with him as a kid learning about Martin Luther King Jr.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” Carter read.
Carter, a graduate of Troy High School and the University of Wisconsin, spoke on significant figures from the Civil Rights Movement as well as the importance of hard work and supporting children in his speech “Unity Today: Accept the Differences and Move Forward.” Carter covered not only bits from King’s history, but also spoke about William Moore McCulloch, Frederick Douglass, and his own background.
“Being that we are in the hometown of Mr. McCulloch, we must be able to give him praise,” Carter said about the former member of the U.S. House of Representatives. McCulloch was a Piqua native and was in office between November 1947 and January 1973. “As the ranking member of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, William McCulloch took a leading role in the civil rights movement. He introduced civil rights legislation months before Kennedy presented his act to Congress.”
Carter explained how this was seen as an unpopular move, considered “politically imprudent” and even “political suicide.”
“Representative McCulloch had only a few of African-American constituents and so few votes to gain from introducing or supporting civil rights legislation,” Carter continued. “McCulloch’s influence with the Civil Rights Act led President John Kennedy to declare, ‘Without him it can’t be done.’ McCulloch was recognized by Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, under whom the act was passed, as ‘the most important and powerful political force’ in passing the Act.”
On the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Carter emphasized how hard Douglass worked to achieve and fight for his freedom and the freedom of others. Carter went over some of Douglass’ history on how he was born a slave, his father was a slave owner, and he escaped slavery when he was approximately 20 years old. Douglass then became a political activist and preacher, arguing for the rights of African-Americans and women.
“You can be born into any situation … and achieve any dream possible,” Carter said.
Carter also referred to Douglass as one of his heroes who emphasized that people “were better off building strong children than repairing broken men.”
On the importance of supporting the youth, Carter explained that he has a “lifelong obligation” to helping children that was first inspired by his mother who “instilled a lot a lot of strength” in Carter.
“As a young kid growing up, I had so many people help me,” Carter said. Carter went on to commend his mother, saying, “She is my pride and my joy … She never ever complained.”
Carter attributed the support he received from his mother and his family to him and his brothers each getting a college education.
“We’ll be the first generation of our family as far as all brothers and sisters graduating college,” Carter said.
Carter talked about how he was inspired to obtain an education and become a father figure and a leader in the community. Carter said he learned that “your reputation you must protect with anything” and that if people have integrity, others will always come along to help them.
“Working with the youth every day I can tell you that there are plenty of youth that need adult mentors and positive influences,” Carter said, encouraging others to help support children. “While moving forward, the focus must be the youth because they are our future leaders, and in my opinion, we are in need of strong leaders at all levels and all sectors.”
Following Carter’s speech, the event went on to the “Parable of the Shapes,” where people represented by different shapes come to be friends “in spite of” their different shapes. Community members read from the parable, each holding a large shape.
“Is she a friend is she a foe?” Ryan King, owner of Can’t Stop Running Company, read. “Not till I look at her shape will I know. A circle I be and a circle I stay. A circle is needed for friendship today.”
King’s character later shuns the “white blob” character played by Barbara Davis, retired teacher and Piqua resident.
“I think that it’s only a blob that I’ve found,” King read. “Now think of my image, what others might say. I can’t take the risk. Away! Away!”
The blob gets shunned by circles, star shapes, and triangles until a green square comes along, played by Jordan Knepper, executive director of the Piqua Arts Council. The green square seeks to be the blob’s friend “in spite of” her shape.
“Your wisdom is growing, I think you now see,” Knepper read. “Love puts no conditions on you or on me.”
The event ended with a group singing of “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” led by Brenda Cobbs-Allen. The event was sponsored by the YWCA and supported by Upper Valley Medical Center.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall