Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic honored the life of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. with two events leading up to MLK Day, an annual federal holiday observed the third Monday in January.
NIWC Atlantic’s Executive Diversity Council (EDC) African American Action Team coordinated an observance event held in Charleston, South Carolina and was broadcasted to all NIWC Atlantic sites on the late King’s birthday, Jan. 15.
The event, which featured guest speaker South Carolina State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, focused on the impact King’s actions, words and skill as an organizer of peaceful protests had on the civil rights movement and how his influence has since shaped the country’s social landscape. This message was reflected in the theme of the observance, “Remembering the Past and Growing Together in the Future.”
The event kicked off with a welcome from Fleet C4I and Readiness Department Head Charles E. Adams and an engaging game of MLK trivia hosted by Joseph Williams, a NIWC Atlantic employee. Attendees were also treated to several moving recitations of King’s most famous speeches, including his “I Have a Dream” address that was originally delivered Aug. 28, 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, by guest presenter Richard Bumpers of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta, Georgia. Bumpers delivered the narrations with King’s distinctive cadence and recognizable southern inflection and brought many audience members to tears during the retelling.
Gilliard, upon taking the podium, reflected on the experience saying he was “mesmerized.”
“I actually closed my eyes,” he said. “And I had the most vivid picture in my mind of the late Dr. King.”
Gilliard continued with the theme by reflecting on how he was inspired by King’s example to a life of service, first as a union organizer and now as a politician who champions the most disadvantaged members of society. He punctuated his presentation with his favorite quotes from King and spoke of meeting King’s wife, Loretta Scott King, in 2004 during a presentation to the student body at Burke High School in downtown Charleston.
“I worked up the nerve to ask her what would be the one thing, the one word of advice, she would want to leave these kids with today,” Gilliard said. “And she said, ‘Love one another, learn to respect one another, because we’re all going to die one day.’ That really moved me. And I pass that word to this day.”
NIWC Atlantic Commanding Officer Capt. Wesley Sanders closed the observance by encouraging employees toward service themselves.
“MLK Day is the only federal holiday set aside as a national day of service,” Sanders said. “Our Navy is a global force for good – our desire is to make things better wherever we are. I hope you will all start where you are, make a difference and make a change where you are today. Help us make the country more like the vision that Dr. King had.”
An energetic group of NIWC Atlantic employees heeded Sanders’ words on MLK Day, Jan. 20, by participating in the African American Action Team’s second coordinated observance event – marching in the city of Charleston’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade. The group was joined by NIWC Atlantic Executive Director Peter C. Reddy, Fleet C4I’s Adams and other senior leaders.
The team assembled with more than 160 other parade entrants, including bands, floats, classic cars, walking groups and more, on a chilly Monday morning outside Burke High School, the same school where Gilliard met Scott King more than 15 years prior, to prepare for the march.
The parade looped through downtown neighborhoods before making its way down King Street, which was lined with cheering spectators. Members of the NIWC Atlantic group took turns holding a banner, waving at the crowds, and shouting chants of “Living the Dream!,” all while collecting more employee participants as the parade progressed.
“This was an inaugural event for us,” Shawn Truesdale, NIWC Atlantic employee and event coordinator, said of the parade. “We’re really looking to expand our participation more next year. This was a humbling experience and I think everyone had a great time celebrating Dr. King in a new way.”
As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.