Thursday, January 26, 2012
Honoring Martin Luther King
By SUE WATSON
Martin Luther King’s 83rd birthday was celebrated last week in Holly Springs with song, speeches, breakfast, and by honoring a local NAACP figure for her long-standing contributions to the local effort to advance civil rights.
Mozell Kelley was presented a plaque of recognition for “longevity and legacy,” by Rep. Kelvin Buck, saying the award comes down to one individual a lot of times.
“You think about a name that has stood the test of time,” he said.
At a loss for words, Kelley responded, “What can I say? I’m overwhelmed. I can only say thank you to the NAACP, my brothers and sisters.”
Afterward, Rev. Andrew Cheairs, pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, honored Kelley with a song, “Serving the Lord Will Pay Off After a While.”
The January 16 ceremony was held at the Eddie Lee Smith Multi-Purpose Building. A crowd, estimated to be from 400 to 600, attended the event to honor and commemorate the late civil rights leader. King pushed for rights to march in non-violent protest on issues such as education, segregation, poverty and those who are left behind in societies wherever they may be found. The legacy of the slain civil rights leader was that the United States Constitution be fulfilled where all men are created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Paul Lampley, president of the Marshall County Chapter of the NAACP, reminded those in attendance that the civil rights movement in the United States was ushered in through the Christian churches. Lampley served as emcee throughout the program.
Nearly all speakers, including Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry, said the message King left in his “I Have a Dream” speech is that there is still much work to be done to fulfill the Constitution’s promise of liberty, life, pursuit of happiness, and equality of all people.
New Hope MB Church served as the host church. New Hope is noted as the church of the first black Marshall County constable, McEwen Walker, first black justice of the peace, James Malone, first black school board member, Amanda Malone, and first black female pastor at the Baptist Church, Bessie Tables.
Breakfast was prepared by the Marshall County Men’s Breakfast Group. Pastor Bessie Thompson Tables of New Hope provided the keynote speech, warning African Americans not to rest on their laurels.
Marketta Liggins Steward, chair of the education committee of the local NAACP, provided reminders of the work King did for the world. He wanted to be remembered for having fed the hungry, clothed someone, his struggle for class rights and his fight against poverty, economic exploitation and war, she said.
He fought for the poor, the uneducated, the left behind and affirmed America’s promise.
“He died for that dream,” Steward said. “Be a person of action until Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream becomes a reality.”
“Our whole involvement is strongly tied to the church,” Lampley emphasized. “We are tied together through our faith.”
Tables emphasized that King realized that injustice to one is injustice to all. She said America’s promise needs to be reaffirmed and she reviewed some of the long history from 1866 when the American Civil War ended with the abolition of slavery, on through the Reconstruction years of the 1870s, 1875, and into the modern day civil rights era of 1957 through 1964.
She called the election of Barack Obama as president of the nation a watershed moment in American history, the election proving that change has finally come.
“We would like to say it’s all over, but in reality, it has just begun,” Tables said.
She issued the warning that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.
“You need to know your mistakes, because if you don’t, your mistakes of yesterday will be one today and next week,” Tables said.
She urged families to retell their history to their children, whom she says often reply “That is yesterday’s stuff.”
She said failure to tell children about African American history leads them to having a sense of entitlement. She said African Americans are often portrayed as the only ones living on Welfare or food stamps, when in reality more white Americans are on the program than blacks.
Before 1860, when a civil war was fought over slavery and civil rights, black people had to be careful of themselves, where they walked. Then after the Civil War, the KKK was birthed in Tennessee, and Jim Crow laws prevented people of color from registering to vote through exacting unfair requirements, including a poll tax and a test on the Constitution.
“You don’t understand that people fought and died for you to sit at the front or at the back of the bus,” Tables said. “There is a war still going on. Rights are being undermined. While you are sleeping and slumbering, changes are being made. There is danger in ignorance. You need to put on your armor and get prepared for trouble. Or in the morning you are going to step off the sidewalk again.”
The Martin Luther King celebration was the 27th annual commemoration of King’s birthday in Holly Springs. This year’s theme was “Affirming America’s Promise.”
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