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Honoring history
Enoch Pratt Free Library CEO Carla Hayden speaks during the Carroll County NAACP's annual Martin Luther King breakfast in Westminster Saturday, Jan. 10. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

More than 100 guests gathered at Martin's Westminster Saturday to honor the memory and life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Carroll County chapter of the NAACP's annual MLK breakfast.

The breakfast, attended by NAACP members and local elected officials, featured a celebration of King's life, the awarding of the Carroll County youth "Living the Dream" awards and a speach from Carla Hayden, Enoch Pratt Free Library CEO and former president of the American Library Association.

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Chapter president Jean Lewis said the event is an important component of keeping King's dream alive in Carroll County.

"It gives the community a chance to come together in fellowship and to hear from others who maybe have a slightly different perspective," Lewis said.

Following opening remarks and the breakfast, Pam Zappardino announced the four winners of the Carroll County youth "Living the Dream" awards, a new award given to youth who represents four major tenets of King's life: dedication to service, academic excellence, passion for equality and faith-based actions. The award-winning students, Kayla Sembly of Winters Mill High School and Sierra Sommerville, Kedric Hart and Christopher Parker of Westminster High School, were each individually honored for their service.

Lynn Wheeler, director of Carroll County Public Library then introduced the morning's speaker, Carla Hayden of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Hayden discussed the importance of literacy and the role reading played in the history of African Americans.

"The relationship with reading and being prohibited to get knowledge has been a theme with civil rights," Hayden said. "As Frederick Douglass wrote in his biography, when he realized his mistress was teaching him to read, and his slave owner came in and found out and was just so upset, [Douglass] knew right then that reading was important because it was forbidden."

Hayden said the Enoch Pratt Free Library was established as one of the first public spaces in Baltimore that admitted patrons of any race. She said Enoch Pratt had a passion for spreading knowledge.

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free. Once you get knowledge and seek knowledge, they can't take it away from you," Hayden said. "People can take away a lot of things, but not what's in your head, not your ability to learn and keep learning."

Hayden took the occasion to commemorate the recent 50th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She said now, technology can provide a vital role in furthering the cause of equality and justice.

"When you look at what happened in Ferguson and the protests people are having and getting together, the young people have used that tool to organize to do that," Hayden said. "You have the tools. Imagine if 50 years ago, they could have used some of those tools. And imagine too what it took in the age before cell phones and things to organize a march on Selma and have all those people there."

The event rounded up with Lewis discussing the last year of work and a brief look at the year ahead for the local NAACP. Lewis said the group is currently working with the Community Media Center on an African American Trailblazers of Carroll County video project which speaks with those with close ties to local African American history. The series will be aired on Channel 19 throughout the month of February in honor of Black History Month.

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

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