Sampson to remember King with 14th annual reception

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

January 3, 2014

Many across the county will soon gather once again to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Sampson’s annual multi-cultural business reception to be held Monday, Jan. 20 at the Agri-Expo Center in Clinton.

Presented by the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce and its Multi-Cultural Business Committee, the event, which is open to the public, will begin at noon with a special program designed to pay tribute to King.

“We formed the Multi-Cultural Business Committee 14 years ago with the Chamber to encourage minority businesses,” explained Dee Bryant who chairs the committee with Patty Cherry, Dr. Ted Thomas, and Dr. Rodney Sessoms. She shared that from the start the committee wanted to have some kind of annual event to bring attention to those minorities and “who better to center an event around than Dr. King and all he stood for and did.”

This year’s reception “is going to be similar to last year’s,” Bryant continued. “The MLK Community Youth Choir that formed last year (for the event) will be performing again this year, and we will have local ministers doing excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches.”

During its first 12 years, the annual event featured traditional speakers, but last year the committee chose music and youth as the focus of the tribute to King, bringing students from Clinton City, Sampson County and Sampson Community College together for the program in a Clinton-Sampson combined school youth chorus.

“Our focus will be on the youth in our community,” said Cherry last year. “We wanted them to take an active part in the celebration. We feel we must involve the upcoming generation and pass along the need to reflect and remember Dr. King and all of his accomplishments to our society.”

The committee and Chamber are thrilled to have youth, particularly the youth of the MLK Community Youth Choir, returning to be involved in this year’s event.

“They formed just for last year but afterwards people kept wanting them to perform at churches and such so it’s not been a one time deal; it’s turned into a full-time group,” shared Janna Bass, executive director of the Chamber, about the choir. “I think they’ve performed about two times a month since.”

In addition to being filled with song, the program will also be “filled with readings from Dr. King’s speeches, furthering what he did,” Bass added.

Per tradition, part of the program will also be dedicated to recognizing two individuals in the community for their positive multi-cultural impact.

“We always give out two MLK Citizenship Awards every year but I can’t say the names because they’re surprises,” said Bryant, explaining that the committee has made honoring deserving individuals each year a priority because “it’s just a way to acknowledge those who we feel are outstanding citizens and exemplify what Dr. King stood for.”

State Rep. Larry Bell, Dr. Ted Thomas, Bill Scott, Malachi Faison, Jim Matthews, and Dr. Paul Viser are among those who have received the distinction in years past.

Following the program, lunch by Clinton’s Happy Belly Deli will be served. The event, including the program and luncheon, is free and no tickets are required.

In addition to the Chamber and the committee’s efforts, the event is made possible each year by generous sponsors. This year’s sponsors include Mary Mack’s Inc., Star Communications, state Sen. Brent Jackson, Clinton Appliance & Furniture Co., Thornton Ventures, First Citizens Bank, Smithfield Packing Co., Lisbon Street Missionary Baptist Church, Sessoms Medical Associates, Duke Energy, Brock Memorial & Worley Funeral Home, Inc., Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church, Dr. Ted Thomas, Ann Butler, and the Viser family.

“We want to especially thank all of our sponsors. We’re looking forward to this event again,” said Bass, mentioning that over 500 people turned out for last year’s reception. “It’s a very well-attended event and we hope that everyone will come out again and join us.”

The committee also encouraged the community to take part in this year’s celebration “to give honor to and show appreciation for all of Dr. King’s struggles,” said Bryant.

For more information about the event, please contact Janna Bass at the Chamber at 592-6177, Dee Bryant at 260-0435, Patty Cherry at 224-5347, Dr. Ted Thomas at 990-1509, or Dr. Rodney Sessoms at 596-2800.

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at