By Tim Cherry, Fort Belvoir Garrison Public AffairsFebruary 21, 2013
It's a day to remember, a day to celebrate, a day to act.
This is how a guest performer urged Fort Belvoir community members to honor Martin Luther King Jr. during the garrison's cultural observance Jan. 17.
E.P. Mcknight, poet, actress, writer and radio and television artist, entertained servicemembers and civilians with dance, historical reflection and the spoken word in the Fort Belvoir Officer's Club.
"Champion Dr. King's legacy and all of his accomplishments to spearhead change in your space," McKnight said. "Rome wasn't built in a day and collectively over a period of time we can all have our Rome if each of us decides to be the Dr. King in your community."
The observance served as a precursor to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service federal holiday Monday. Fort Belvoir, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command and the Operational Support Airlift Agency Equal Opportunity Offices co-hosted the event.
The celebration also featured free fried catfish, corn bread, cake and other foods as well as educational displays and birthday music.
More than 40 years have passed since King died in 1968. His and other civil rights leaders' work paved the way for heightened equality amongst Americans. The officer's club was filled with images of the civil rights leader participating in peaceful protests and delivering speeches.
"Dr. King reminds us to not be discouraged," said Master Sgt. Charm Rodgers, U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command EOO advisor. "He reminds us that we should stand up for justice and stand up for freedom regardless of the cost."
Rodgers said King's legacy should inspire Soldiers and Families to continue to serve and defend the nation.
"Our men and women of the armed forces show action everyday of the year in unselfishly sacrificing our time, energy and, in the ultimate cases, our lives," Rodgers said. "If I truly remember what Dr. King's legacy calls for, I will not be discouraged."
McKnight served as the key reminder of King's legacy during the cultural observance.
A graduate of Fordham University in New York, N.Y., McKnight has written and performed in plays, movies and television shows, according to a biography provided by the garrison's EOO.
Her performance came in three separate parts: a scene from her Fannie Lou Hamer play, a choreographed dance and a speech sharing her thoughts on King and service.
Excerpts from recording artist such as Beyonce Knowles and King's speeches blared through the room as audience members watched and listened to McKnight's message.
She urged the crowd to champion their own service causes as King did while alive. She told them anyone can become a leader regardless of wealth or social status.
"Remember it's a day on and not just another day off from work," McKnight said. "Champion a cause, an issue, an injustice or just make a difference or betterment in your community somewhere, somehow, someway. There's always an opportunity but you got to see them."
McKnight highlighted this point by sharing the story of a homeless man who provided food, clothes, counseling and funeral services for other homeless people.
"He was a Dr. King in his space," McKnight said.
Garrison Commander Col. Gregory D. Gadson called McKnight's performance moving and an honorable way to celebrate King's legacy.
"It's a profound reminder why this nation chooses this day to celebrate what King stood for and ultimately why we as Soldiers fight," Gadson said.
Gadson and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Chester D. Grelock presented McKnight with an Eagle award for her performance.