MLK Jr. Day Observance events
• 7:30 a.m. — Community Breakfast
Effingham Administration Complex
• 10 a.m. — Parade
Route: Laurel Street to the fair grounds.
• Noon — Youth Awards Program
Effingham County Recreational Gym
Highway 119 South, Springfield
• 6 p.m. — Communitywide service
St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, Clyo
Pastor Verdie Banner will be the grand marshal for the Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Springfield on Monday.
Banner is the pastor for Royal Temple Holiness Church of Guyton. He has been a pastor for 22 years, and in the area for 14.
“I wanted to be an evangelist, but I guess I had a love for people,” Banner said. “It’s kind of hard to explain — it’s just something that the spirit of the Lord put in you, and I wanted to be able to help. I just feel like being a servant for people, a pastor ain’t nothing but a servant. I just enjoy people. It’s a love that God put in your heart for people you can help someone, and you can go to God and make an intersession prayer for someone.”
He said he was surprised and happy when he was told he was selected as the grand marshal for this year’s parade.
“To me it just means so much because I know where we come from,” he said. “It means a lot to be able to observe a holiday for such a great man.”
He said he hopes that the younger generation takes the opportunities that are now available to get an education and work toward their goals.
“As a child growing up, I grew up on a farm. I went to school when it rained,” he said. “We had to work. I hope young people would take advantage of the opportunity they’ve got. That door’s open — all they’ve got to do now is walk in. There’s nothing keeping them from walking in. I’d like to see them stay in school and get an education.
“We used to dream if I could be this, if I could be that, but you can be that now. There was a time as black people we dreamed that we could go to college, if I had a chance, but the dream is real now. The door is open, it’s here, you can go. I know there’s some more struggle we may have to go through, but I describe the dream as a reality now. The dream is real.”
Those dreams that Dr. King talked about more than 40 years ago are now accessible, Banner said.
“There are still some things we’ve got to do,” he said. “Our young people have to get an education. It’s not just going to fall in your lap. You have to get up and do something. Right now, you can say this is what I want to be, and you can be that. It’s up to the person now.
“He got us to the gate, it’s up to us to walk in,” Banner said.
He said he thanks God for the opportunities available for his children.
“The younger people have to stay in school, that’s what it’s all about opening doors. If you don’t stay in school and get an education, then the dream is in vain,” he said. “Opportunity is here for you. If you want to do something you can do it now. I’d like to see younger people stay in school.”
Banner said he was 47 years old when he earned his GED, and people can’t let the past hold them down.
“The dream was about people getting a good education, that’s what it’s going to take to make it,” he said.
Banner said he is glad to see people come together to celebrate the holiday.
“I like to see people come together and celebrate the dream, what the dream was all about. It’s not just taking off just to take off, but what that man accomplished.”
He said he would like to see emphasis placed on “where we were and where we are now.”
“I think a lot of people really don’t know,” he said. He said the younger generation does not understand the struggle.
Banner said he enjoys seeing the input from the younger generation in the poster and essay contests.
“Some of them are picking up on the dream,” he said. “I like to see the effort they put in it. I see them learning what the dream was all about. I think they’re taking advantage of that.”
MLK Observance Day Chairperson Lon Harden said there were a number of people considered to honor as grand marshal this year, but the committee believe they made the right decision to have Banner this year.
“Not only is he a pastor, but he is a community leader,” Harden said. “He is concerned about the entire community not just Guyton, which is the town that he pastors in, but Effingham County as a whole. He does prison ministry as well. He’s dedicated to the concerns of the people.”
Harden described Banner as inspiring, caring and concerned about the people.
“(He’s) motivating for everyone to do better, to accelerate, most of all to have a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Harden said.