Education is the most important thing that will carry on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., speakers said during an awards breakfast in Myrtle Beach on Monday.
“Education is the only guaranteed passport that can transition you from one stage of life to another,” said Byron Garrett, chairman of the National Family Engagement Alliance and keynote speaker at Monday’s event. “There are people who say that education is a civil right. Education is not only a civil right, it is a human right.”
It was a sentiment echoed by most of the participating speakers as many gathered in the Canal Street Recreation Center’s banquet hall to celebrate King’s life, and honor those who work to carry on his legacy. The event was organized by the Carolina African American Heritage Association.
“I believe the greatest threat to this country ... is from an income disparity that separates us too widely,” Myrtle Beach Councilman Philip Render said, adding that the main thing that closes the income gap is getting a proper education.
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen continued to push a plan to expand 4-year-old kindergarten for at-risk S.C. children as part of his campaign for governor. He said now was a time to act.
“Martin Luther King’s message was one of action,” the Kershaw County Democrat said.
Garrett, a S.C. native who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, said while there was room for improvement in the American education system, there are people who have grown up in homes in other countries that didn’t have floors who come to the U.S. and excel educationally. But there are children in this country who have no desire to get a good education, he said.
“How can you come from nowhere and get somewhere, and [some youth] are somewhere and want to go nowhere?” he said.
The mission of Garrett’s National Family Engagement Alliance is to “provide resources and supports to educate, equip and mobilize individuals, families and organizations to ensure student success,” according to the organization’s website.
Garrett encouraged the adults in the room with children to be involved in their school and those who did not have children to spend time mentoring young people.
“There is no greater threat to this nation than an undereducated [population],” he said.
The Carolina African American Heritage Association passed out seven awards Monday morning, with retired U.S. Army Sgt. Harold Blye Sr. receiving the Drum Major Patriot Award.
The awards breakfast kicked off the last of a three-day celebration of King’s life, including a talent show held Saturday and a parade held Monday afternoon.