Thursday, January 20, 2011
Dr. King’s dream lives on
By SUE WATSON
An estimated group of 350 turned out Monday for the 26th annual Marshall County celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
Nationally, the day was set by Congress 25 years ago, but members of the Marshall County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People began a year earlier, putting this county ahead of the curve. That significance was noted by several speakers at the breakfast and program held this year at the Eddie Lee Smith Jr. Multi-Purpose Building in Holly Springs.
Mt. Peel MB Church in Laws Hill was host church this year; Rev. Rondias Cox is pastor. Breakfast was provided by Billy Autry.
“We – the NAACP – fought for years and years to get it,” said Mozell Kelley. “We’ve had it more than 26 years. We had celebrations in schools and on his birthday, too.”
Paul Lampley, president of the local NAACP chapter, reminded those attending of the reason King’s birthday is “recognized, memorized, and remembered.”
“We are called at this time for action and concerns of our day,” he said. “We are reminded how love has not been the key initiative in our lives. Martin said over and over and over again...we’ve got to love each other. From our family, to the courthouse, to the schoolhouse to Washington, we have got to have love for each other.”
Calvin James read the 100th Psalm and Mt. Peel deacon James Jones prayed, thanking God for each day and the power to struggle. Jones said people have struggled from day immemorial, including Jesus who struggled on the cross on through King’s struggle and into the time of present struggle.
“The struggle is to try to make the world a better place, not only for children but for all children,” he said.
Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry welcomed visitors and said, “Dr. King was not elevated as a man, but because of the dream and vision of the Maker who sent him here.”
Refering back to the Old Testament story of Joseph, son of Jacob, King’s story reminds DeBerry of “the brothers who said, ‘Let us slay him and we will see what will come of his dream.’ ”
“Dr. King's dream still lives,” he said. “We have his memory to improve the quality of life and standard for us all.”
Rev. Leona Harris, a lifetime member of the local chapter, said King’s legacy reminds us of the life of a great servant.
“He lived a life that demanded an end to injustice and inequality,” she said. “We need to serve humanity in some way. We can do the things Dr. King did - to eradicate poverty and injustice.”
Jesus’s standard for greatness was he who is greatest shall be your servant, Harris said. “It means everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love, to serve.”
Marshall County supervisor George Zinn III recalled that each year MLK’s birthday is celebrated a little differently in Marshall County.
“You don’t know what to expect when you come to these breakfasts,” he said. “Expect to be open-minded and to be touched. Don’t let anything escape you...when you leave here...spread the word and keep the word alive.”
Al Beck, past president of the local chapter, provided a time-line of the Civil Rights struggle in America, beginning with Rosa Parks (Dec. 1, 1955, Birmingham, Ala.) who refused to give up her seat in the front of the bus to a white, to King’s struggle for justice, to Emmett Till (1955), whose mother insisted the world look upon the corpse of her slain son in the Mississippi Delta, to the March on Washington eight years later (August 28, 1963), to W.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells who helped found the NAACP in 1909, to the Civil Rights Act of Congress (1964), to the election of President Obama (2008).
“We must never forget to connect the dots (turning points),” he said.
Rep. Alan Nunnlee made brief remarks. He said King’s birthday celebrations have more of a flavor of a church service rather than a political rally.
“Dr. King was a minister of the gospel well before he became a national civil rights leader,” Nunnlee said.
“Pray for those who persecute you, do good to those who despise you,” he said, repeating the teachings of Jesus.
Pastor Cox quoted Proverbs: “Where there is no vision the people perish,” and “In the latter days old men shall dream dreams and young men will see visions.”
He was serving in Germany the day in April 1968 when King was shot dead in Memphis. Cox said he wanted to come home but could not get leave so soldiers talked through it together.
“They (the government) thought we would come back and destroy things,” Cox said. “But I was reminded I was called to defend, not to destroy.”
He remembered his school boy days of placing his hand over his heart and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance ... One Nation... with liberty and justice for all.
“I thought about One Nation and talked to Mom and Dad. Things were rough in Memphis in 1968,” Cox said. “So she said: ‘Baby, let me help you. They killed the dreamer, not the dream.’
“My hope became alive again.”
And the dream Cox had that one day the United States would live in the land of milk and honey was crushed once more with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
“I remembered in school where we learned ‘We hold these truths to be self evident;’ how we were equal when black people were fighting for rights in America. Dad said, ‘Don’t be a part of it. Be a part of the solution, so we can change the injustice of our time.’
“My hope became alive again. It’s still God’s economy. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
Now black and white men and women go to college together. The dream continues.
“I dare you to dream wherever you are now,” said Cox. “You can be better this morning than you were yesterday. There has to be a change in the way government acts and thinks. Somebody in this room may be responsible for making that change.”
In Biblical stories, changes come in 40s. From 1968 with the death of King to 2008 with the election of Barack Obama - the first black American president, was 40 years. The children of Israel wandered in the desert 40 years. It rained 40 days and nights on Noah’s ark.
“America was tested from 1968-2008 with the dreams and aspirations of a young black kid who decided he wanted to be president. God always raises up a standard, an Abraham Lincoln, a Joshua to replace Moses. There will be a Joshua, Cox said.
“I dare you to dream and to sit down with the best of the best and hold your head up, whether you be a PhD or a GED. I dare you to dream that you can be who you want to be.”
He reminded parents to “lay their hands on their children and tell them who they are, where they are from, and what is expected of them.”
“They killed the dreamer, but they can never kill the dream,” Cox said. “We can get it right now; we don’t have to wait to get to Heaven to get it right. We have to believe we can make a difference.”
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