As keynote speaker for the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Observance, the Rev. Craig R. Tremble said, "Neighbor, it's time to take a stand." In fact, he had his listeners turn to each other and repeat it.
Tabernacle Baptist Church on Bulloch Street filled to the point that ushers started putting folding chairs in the center aisle, and a few people stood in the back. The 3 p.m. service, following Monday's parade, was sponsored by the Bulloch County Branch of the NAACP. Tremble, a minister for 30 years, has been pastor of Second Saint John Missionary Baptist Church for 19 years, and he and his wife, Yolanda A. Tremble, own the Craig R. Tremble Funeral Homes in Statesboro and Pembroke.
"As we reflect and remember the life and the legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we cannot forget the struggle, the progress through racism and social issues," Tremble said. "His life and his dream have left upon America as well as our community a desire of accountability, to continue to take a stand for what is right."
This does not mean "to take a stand to fight others" but "to be encouraged to work toward togetherness, to help each other, in order for all of us to move forward," he added.
King, Tremble said, was not for one group of Americans, but for all people.
Although he said he was talking, not preaching, Tremble grounded his remarks in the Bible, specifically the story in Daniel Chapter 3 about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to a golden image.
"While everybody was bowing, they took a stand," he said. "They took a stand for their God, a stand for their faith; they took a stand for what was right, and they knew their God was able to stand with them - and that he did."
African-Americans, people of faith and Americans in general, Tremble said, should teach their children the lessons of the past, but not hold onto the past.
"We must make sure as we move forward that we take a stand, especially for our children," Tremble said. "We must invest in our children and remind our children of the past, of where we have come from, and yet help them refocus on the future, that there is hope."
He called on adults to become good examples and be actively involved in nurturing children and teenagers.
"We must help them in the nurturing process to stop placing value on things and to place value on life," he said. "To take a stand, we must get involved with our youth, get involved in church ministries, Boys & Girls Club, Statesboro recreation department, and there are programs being sponsored through our local law enforcement. ...
"If not, our children will continue to be failing in our school system, become teenage parents and involved in gang-related activities, right here in our own county and our own city," Tremble said. "Don't mistake yourself. There are gangs not only in New York, Chicago, Savannah, but they are right here, and you know who they are. You've got to take a stand."
Other participants' prayers, readings from King's speeches and music filled the service. Bulloch County NAACP President Pearl Brown welcomed local government officials and later presented some awards.
Her husband, Carlos Brown Jr., NAACP 12th District coordinator, presented a plaque to Deacon Arthur Lee Rosier Jr. as 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade grand marshal.
Rosier, 84, was born in Register. He had a 21-year Air Force career and is a Vietnam War veteran, having been deployed to Cam Ranh Bay Air Base during the 1968 Tet Offensive. After retiring from the military, he worked 22 years for Brooks Instruments. Rosier is an active member of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church and of the NAACP.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.