During Sampson County’s NAACP banquet, Dr. Louie Boykin challenged everyone to take their harps off the willow tree and help youths have a brighter future.
“Don’t throw away your harp because it’s a symbol of hope,” Boykin said to community leaders at the Agri-Exposition Center. “There’s a silence in the land because the harp is no longer being played.”
The pastor of Baldwin Branch Missionary Baptist Church served as the guest speaker for the 18th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet. Saturday theme was “Teaching Our Youth to Excel in Schools and Communities to Make a Difference.” While preaching to the crowd, one of the messages he emphasized was education. As the former dropout prevention counselor at Clinton High School, he saw firsthand the issues such as lack of interest in learning.
“Somebody have told our boys that it’s not cool to be smart and for some reason they have accepted the hype,” Boykin said while comparing the present to the days of the past, when education was more valued more.
He emphasized that it’s important for adults to guide students and provide encouragement in the learning process to become successful. The message was inspired by a portion of Psalm 37 — “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
“Many of us have contributed to the silence, to the harassment and emotional and physical abuse,” Boykin said. “Many of us are contributing to the gang violence and the drug use in our community. We are contributing to the re-segregation of schools within an integrated system because we have refused to play our harps and we’re remaining silent. Whatever happens we take it.
“I know you’re looking at me like you don’t fit in those categories,” he said. “But tonight I challenge the NAACP and every adult under the sound of my voice tonight. You are contributing to the silence because the young people can’t hear your harp.”
He continued and asked when was the last time they’ve spoken to a child outside of their home. Boykin also emphasized the importance of neighbors not becoming isolated in a technology advanced world which includes cell phone and social media.
“We’re sitting in our own homes and everybody in the house has a device,” Boykin said referring to his own home. “Everybody got a TV, everybody got a room, everybody got an iPod, everybody got a laptop … and we’re sitting in the house texting each other.”
Boykin believes that God has given everyone a responsibility to help needy people or “to free those who’ve been imprisoned by self-imposed limitations.”
“The youths have lost interest because we sit by the riverbanks talking about them, instead of talking to them,” Boykin said referring to the passage from the Bible and harp.
Near the end of his sermon, Boykin said it’s time to break the silence and stop pointing fingers. He also stressed that faith plays a role in making the community better as well, He emphasized two words “But God” while referring to words to a part of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — “God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on the way; Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray.”
Before Boykin took the podium, Clinton Mayor Lew Starling gave him honorary mayor status during a special greeting near the beginning of the ceremony.
During a recent tragedy, Starling said Boykin came to minister to emotionally hurt people. It was one of several recognition made Saturday night. Luther Moore, 2nd Vice President of the Sampson County Branch honored Scholarship recipients Zipporah Hayes, a Union High School graduate now attending North Carolina A&T University; and Madeline Royal, a Union High School graduate, attending the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The two students are two of nine students who received scholarships from the local branch.
President Lee Byam presented Branch Treasurer Tony Watson with the Leadership Award for his contributions to the organization. The Friendly Trio Community Development Corporation earned the Community Service Award for making a significant difference in the community and providing meals to elderly residents and youths around Sampson County. The organization also provided educational assistance as well.President Charles Strickland accepted the award on behalf of the organization and was grateful for the acknowledgment.
“It’s a pleasure of mine to work with our youth to give them further education on this lifelong journey,” Strickland said.
The Friendly Trio’s work is one example of Boykin’s challenge of playing the harp and helping others. It was one of several sentiments of progress echoed by other leaders such as the Rev. Judy Johnson-Truitt. As the master of the ceremonies, she figuratively used the challenge of swimming through dense fog an an example.
“If it seems like you’re swimming through dense fog, don’t quit because you’re a valuable asset to the town and the community,” Johnson-Truitt said. “Our towns need you to keep swimming. Our children need you to keep swimming and everyone is depending on you to keep swimming. Why? Because future leaders are depending on you to keep swimming. Subsequent banquets like this will continue to tell our story, if we all keep swimming. Plus, as long as we keep swimming, the journey to justice and equality might be just half a mile away.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.