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Unity keynoter uses King’s words as guide

Soles de Mexico dancers perform at Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast. Soles de Mexico dancers perform at Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast.

The keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast used five quotations from the slain civil rights leader as guideposts that can show people how to “demonstrate love and strengthen your community.”

Valaida Fullwood, a Morganton native and graduate of UNC at Chapel Hill, is the author of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, which received the prestigious McAdam Book Award as “the most inspirational and useful new book for the non-profit sector.”

“In Giving Back,” said a short review at, Fullwood “poignantly chronicles the African American philanthropy experience. Intimate vignettes and candid reflections reveal a myriad of philanthropic practices grounded in faith, mutuality, and responsibility.”

ValaidaFullwoodValaida FullwoodFullwood urged a capacity crowd at the 18th annual tribute to King to take to heart the civil rights leader’s message “as a blueprint for a better America.”

The topic she chose to research deeply and write about, philanthropy, showed her many examples of “how to create community, how to be generous, how to give, how to impact people’s lives and the community.

“Translated from the Greek, philanthropy means love, love of humankind,” she said. “I like to think of it as love of what it means to be human.”

Some of King’s most inspiring words show how to demonstrate love, lead change and put others first:

  • “Life’s most personal and urgent question is, ‘What are we doing for others?’” King said. “So what are we doing for others?” Fullwood asked. “Some might say we need to be selfless. I would say we need to be self-full, giving all of yourself.”
  • “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary,” King said. Fullwood challenged the audience to think beyond check-writing and look deeply at why the donation is needed to start with. “What are you choosing to overlook?”
  • “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives,” King said. “What change are you willing to make,” Fullwood asked, “to demonstrate love and strengthen your community?”
  • “Nothing in the world is more dangerous,” King said, “than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Fullwood urged people to be willing to engage closely with others, even strangers, to better understand their community and its needs. “What do you remain dangerously ignorant about largely because you stay at a distance?” she asked.
  • “For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it,” King said, “there is no stopping point short of victory.” “Are you willing to sacrifice for what is right?” she asked. King sacrificed his own life, 50 years ago on April 4 of this year, for what which is right. “That’s not what I’m suggesting you do. I’m suggesting sacrificing by letting go. Letting go of control, letting go of material things, letting go of needing to be liked by everybody, letting go of prejudice, letting go of having to be right all the time.”

Keeping in mind that Dr. King lived only to the age of 39, people ought to make their span of time count, avoid overlooking issues that cause poverty and injustice and make changes in their lives that demonstrate love of humankind, Fullwood said. The people gave her a standing ovation.