The life of a civil rights crusader was celebrated during the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Observance and Luncheon, Jan. 14 at Pershing Community Center.

First Lt. Justine Conner, serving as narrator for the program, welcomed the community to the 3rd Chemical Brigade hosted event.

"(This) holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America," Conner said. "We commemorate the timeless values he taught us."

The Rev. Moses Berry, a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, served as keynote speaker for the program. Berry, who pastors a church in Ash Grove, Missouri, is the curator of the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum. Berry's Family is known in southwest Missouri as being an African American Family living on the same property for more than 125 years, and he has worked to share that legacy and preserve African-American history in the Ozarks.

"I live in a house that my great grandfather and great grandmother built in 1871," Berry said. "I was raised in a place where there was community."

Berry told the story of Fanny Murray, a freed slave living in his hometown after the Civil War. Berry's grandfather built her a house at the site of his present church.

"She didn't have anywhere to live. She had to rely on the kindness of strangers," he said.

He talked about Murray's daughter, Olivia, who died in 1991. During Berry's childhood, he said he recalled seeing Olivia walk around town with a bonnet on her head, a long dress and a basket under her arms.

"Quite honestly she was an embarrassment to us, because this was in the late 50s and early 60s, and we were trying to shake off the fetters of subservience…. here she is walking around town looking like 'Aunt Jemima,'" he explained.

Complaining to his mother about Murray's appearance, he learned from his mother that the basket included eggs from her farm and goods from her garden. She would share the goods with Families down on their luck. Berry's mother told him "she saved many lives around here, including ours."

"I felt so ashamed," Berry said.

Berry told the story as an example of the celebration's theme -- "A Day On, Not a Day Off!"

"If we want to know how we can not take a day off, but have a day on, it is to minister to one another," he said. Minister in the sense of doing kindness for those in need and being willing to go a little bit further than is necessary…

Berry spoke about the value of remembering the past and showed several artifacts pertaining to African-American history.

He said the thing people should remember about King is that he wanted "fairness for everyone."

"How do we demonstrate that fairness? By loving those who, spitefully use and say all manor of evil against us. That is how we honor Martin Luther King," Berry said.

Following Berry's speech, Col. Daryl Hood, 3rd Chemical Brigade commander, honored him with a commemorative plaque. The program also included a collection of spiritual songs presented by a choir from Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church from St. Robert, instrumental music from the 399th Army Band and a vocal performance from 2nd Lt. Keeshana Marshall.