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Ahee

Lessons in life and desegregation


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January 24, 2013
Making his way onto the stepstool, Reggie Sharpe rose to the podium.

There, in front of hundreds of his classmates, teachers and family in attendance at the Grosse Pointe Academy's Tracy Fieldhouse, the first grader started, "I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream."

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William Anderson, Shalece Daniels, Reginald Sharpe and Reggie Sharpe, in front, who recited King’s “I Have a Dream” speech prior to Anderson’s lecture. Reginald Sharpe is responsible for bringing Anderson to the Academy.
He continued on, with each word channeling the rhythms and vocal inflections of the late Martin Luther King, Jr., as he worked through King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, down to the final line, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

"That was just incredible," Academy early and lower schools principal Jennifer Kendall said afterward.

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William G. Anderson, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and friend of Martin Luther King Jr.’s, was a guest lecturer at Grosse Pointe Academy Friday, Jan. 18, during the school’s annual special assembly honoring King. Photos by Nora Ezop
Sharpe's recitation of King's speech served as an opening presentation to last week's special assembly, the Academy's annual celebration of King held the Friday before his nationally recognized day of observance, and set the stage for guest speaker, Dr. William G. Anderson, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and friend of King's.

Perhaps best known for founding the Albany Movement, a desegregation group of local activists in Albany, Georgia, Anderson, also a doctor of osteopathic medicine, spoke for nearly 30 minutes about growing up in Georgia, his time in Alabama and in jail, meeting and becoming friends with King and segregation and the birth and result of the Civil Rights Movement. Even at 85, his voice was strong, powerful and resonated throughout the gymnasium as he mixed humorous encounters — "(Martin Luther King and Anderson's brother-in-law) would come to my mother-in-law's home and they would practice that preaching ad nauseum. At one point I said to him, 'Why don't you just shut up?' Can you imagine? Future world leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ph.D, outstanding preacher, and I'm telling him, 'Why don't you just shut up?'" — with serious life lessons — "Wherever you come from, don't forget where you come from, and when you get your education, don't go to where they need, go to where they need you, and that place will be as good to you as you are it. You never lose anything by giving of yourself."

But within the jokes, the stories, the history, was Anderson's main lesson, the point he wished students and faculty took from his lecture, and that was the power people had, and still have, to effect change. And how, despite King's "dream" that Sharpe recited earlier and all King's and others' efforts to cause change, there's still a need for more.

"Our next step now is to change the hearts that change the minds, change the way people think about each other so that we can do as Martin Luther King Jr. said on that day in 1963," Anderson said as he looked over to Sharpe, now sitting with his family. "Well, that dream that he spoke of that day, we will both be able to realize the fulfillment of that dream right here, right now in this generation."

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