Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2012, 10:35 pm

MLK tribute celebrates "Power of One'

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By Laura Anderson Shaw, landerson@qconline.com

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Photo: Laura Anderson Shaw
Loryn Millbrook, and Candace Boyer, both of Rock Island, perform with the Imani! Dancers during 'The Power of One' tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at Augustana College Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, at Centennial Hall. In addition to the dance performance, the annual community celebration includes gospel choirs and speakers.
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Photo: Laura Anderson Shaw
Jethro Cribbs
ROCK ISLAND -- "The Power of One" is really all it takes to create change.

It takes just one person to inspire, spread the word and create a domino effect.

Saturday night, Jethro Cribbs, of Bettendorf, was recognized for just that when he was awarded "The Power of One" award at the annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., held at Augustana College's Centennial Hall.

The award recognizes Quad-Cities "individuals who (have) best represented the life and legacy of Dr. King," said Augustana's director of public relations, Keri Rursch, in an email.

"It's still a surprise," Mr. Cribbs said Saturday night, shortly before the evening's festivities began.

"(I'm) wondering why they picked me."

Ms. Rursch said nominations are submitted to an award committee, which chooses the winner.

According to a biography sheet from Augie, Mr. Cribbs was the first black car salesman in the Quad-Cities and was the public relations manager for Lindquist Ford.

Among his accomplishments, he established a Thanksgiving food program at the Martin Luther King Community Center, Rock Island, through Lindquist Ford, and at the Davenport Friendly House, the biography states.

Mr. Cribbs has served on the Davenport Affirmative Action Committee and was past president of the Davenport Branch NAACP No. 4019.

He worked with the Rock Island Police Department to assist with the minority youth in the city. He also mentored many minority youth, according to the biography.

Humbly, Mr. Cribbs continued to say he was surprised by being recognized.

"When you do things you ought to be doing, you're not looking for no award."

Mr. Cribbs was joined by several of his family members, including his daughter, Jettie Moore, of Bettendorf.

"I'm so proud of my dad and everything he's done," Ms. Moore said.

She said her father has brought their family closer and the community closer, as well.

"He's just a pillar to me," she said.

Mr. Cribbs' wife of 64 years, Marilyn, beamed.

"I'm proud," she said. "I'm very proud."

Together, the couple has raised six children, and they now have 16 grandchildren, 16 great- grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren, Mrs. Cribbs said.

Saturday night's event celebrated Dr. Martin Luther KingJr.'s life with words, songs, drama and dance.

Speakers included Rabbi Tamar Grimm, of the Tri-City Jewish Center in Rock Island; Steven Bahls, president of Augustana College; Cameron Onumah, Augustana's Black Student Union president; Greg Aguilar, Augustana's director of multicultural services, and more.

Mr. Bahls said when Augie first began hosting the celebration a handful of years ago, only about 60 people turned out.

Saturday night, though, Centennial Hall was nearly full. More than 1,000 turned out to celebrate and sing with the choir.

Mr. Bahls told the crowd about the courage it takes to make a difference and to stand up for justice.

"We need to have courage to battle for justice," Mr. Bahls told the crowd. With that courage and "the power of one," he said, we can create a more just community and a more just nation.

Mr. Aguilar told the crowd that if you stand up for equality and no one sees you, "do it again."

Taking a stand against inequality influences others to do the same, Mr. Aguilar said. That influence can then "spark a movement."

When it comes to making change, Mr. Aguilar said it doesn't matter where you start. "You just have to pick one battle and give it everything you've got."

Throughout the night, the hall swelled with the sweet and uplifting sounds of the gospel choirs. The voices of the Community Gospel Chorus, Redeemed Voices, Augustana's Gospel Choir and more radiated throughout the crowd as the audience sang and clapped along.

Loryn Millbrook, 12, Candace Boyer, 16, both of Rock Island and Kennisha Entsminger, 14, of Davenport, with the Imani! Dancers Studio for Cultural Arts in Davenport, performed "The Lord's Prayer."

They gracefully swayed and leapt across the stage, their flowing costumes trailing behind them.

Mr. Onumah, Augustana's Black Student Union president, told the crowd that, while Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. now has been gone longer than he was here, his memory and his accomplishments "live on in all of us."

Mr. Onumah said he wanted the crowd to listen, learn, reflect, honor, and be inspired throughout the night. Even though it's now "2012, we've still got a lot of work to do."