January 21, 2010
Many honor Dr. King’s legacy
The Marshall County branch of the NAACP saw a large turnout of several hundred at Chulahoma MB Church Monday in celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This year in April marks the 42nd year since he was slain at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis.
King’s contributions to the struggle for civil rights was transcended by the element of his contribution to the movement for human rights, a universal right endowed by God, according to Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry, who offered the welcoming remarks.
“Dr. King did many things but he was careful to remind us it was the power of God that sustained him,” DeBerry said. “He was more involved in human rights, inalienable rights given to us by God.”
This year’s celebration of King’s birthday, designated as a federal holiday the third Monday in January each year, was perhaps more special to the African American community because of the election of the first black U.S. president, Barack Obama, in 2008.
The Bible verses from Exodus 3:7-10 pertaining to the prophet Moses and his revelation that God wanted him to lead His people, the Israelites, out of the land of Egypt where they were captives and slaves, to the Promised Land, was a theme King used often in his speeches, particularly in his most famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
When Moses questioned God about choosing him for this leadership role, God promised Moses he would go with him and showed him a sign.
King is considered the “Moses” of the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
In welcoming remarks, Ms. Powell of Chulahoma MB Church, said the purpose of the yearly celebration is to “keep the dream alive, a dream that has been fulfilled. But we need to continue to tell somebody about this.”
Mozell Kelley, treasurer of Marshall County NAACP, provided a brief history of the annual celebration locally which was begun 25 years ago. In the first years, members met at the courthouse and walked to Asbury United Methodist Church “to celebrate the birth, life and legacy of Dr. King,” she said.
“It is an historic occasion because a quarter of a century has passed and we have consistently held the celebration on the third Monday of January,” Kelley said.
It was the late mayor Eddie Lee Smith Sr., the first black mayor of Holly Springs, who began the motorcade from the MLK breakfast celebration to MLK Drive - the brainchild of the late mayor begun in 2003, Kelley said.
The celebration of MLK day at Chulahoma MB Church is a departure from holding the celebration at Asbury and the local NAACP Chapter makes an effort to hold the celebration at different churches today.
Kelley ended with the words of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy – “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream never dies.”
Kennedy, the brother of the slain President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, died last year after dedicating his life to human and civil rights issues.
Chulahoma’s Male Chorus and Chauntelle Page provided musical inspiration with the selections “On My Way Home” (chorus) and “My Living Shall Not Be in Vain” (Page).
Rev. Patrick Washington, superintendent of education in Benton County, was the guest speaker. He was invited to fill the spot that would have been given to the minister at Chulahoma. Currently, the position is vacant.
Entering the hall dressed as a teenager with shades, fake gold teeth, sunshades, a hood and cap and baggy pants hanging below his buttocks, Washington made a point that black youth are seeking an identity often provided by entertainment and media sources and know nothing of the sacrifices made by their parents, grandparents, and prior generations.
“It is not unusual to look at your children who look something like this,” Washington said, directing his remarks both to the adults and youth in the room. “If you are concerned that the Civil Rights movement is over, you are mistaken. Just participating in Martin Luther King Day is not enough.”
He said the new generations fail to realize the significance of what has been done for them.
“Young people do not understand the significance of the moment because they had to pay nothing for it,” he said.
He said the young folks should not be judged by their clothes like a book may be judged by its cover; but people may not have time to “read the whole book.”
Using the dress as metaphors, Washington gave some suggestions to how youngsters can awaken to becoming responsible citizens.
“The sunshades are a sign of limited vision,” he said. “Young people look to the media for their identity and poverty is no excuse for ignorance or limited vision.”
“The cap is a sign you need to uncap your thinking. As a man thinketh, so is he. Be very careful what you expose your children to during the first five years of their life. Don’t plant seeds in their minds that they will never amount to anything.”
Just as technology has changed from the rotary dial telephone to the iPod, language is changing and what gets children’s attention is changing with it, he said.
“Riding at the back of the bus may be where they (the teenager) may want to be,” he said.
The feet are for following the steps “ordered by the Lord,” he said.
“That’s why I don’t get upset when doors close, because I have to go through steps to do the Lord’s will,” said Washington, as he put on his work shoes. “Where are your feet taking you? God is taking you somewhere greater than you can see.”
He said many of today’s children are conforming to the group and do not realize that they are here by design, not by mistake.
“You are not a mistake in the Kingdom,” he said.
Washington’s mother was a Rust College graduate and a school teacher and his grandmother had a seventh grade education but was loaded with self-confidence, he said.
When young Washington was leaving the house to go to Mississippi State University, it was his grandmother who reminded him he would succeed.
“I am going to make something out of myself,” he told his grandmother.
She reminded him “You are already something.”
Washington admitted to making mistakes as a youngster.
“Because of my past, I can look at my brother and say, I know where you are,” he said.
Washington said he believes Dr. King would choose to work on the inequities in education, if he were alive today.
He suggested giving one hour a day to public service as a good way to celebrate MLK Day year-round.
Ending on a positive note, Washington said the issues humanity faces know no boundaries, no county or state lines.
“Pray for me and I will certainly pray for you,” he said.
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