By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
One of the largest crowds ever in the on-going annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, a national holiday, in Pearl River County and Picayune, turned out on Monday for a parade from Pleasant Valley Baptist Church on Weems Street to Rose of Sharon Church on Beech Street, where Dr. King’s life was celebrated with old-time gospel singing and preaching.
State Correctional Officer Ronald Dunston, who is also a minister, told a packed auditorium at Rose of Sharon that violence stems from lax parenting in the home, and urged that “everyone needs to stop blaming all our problems on the police. . .”
Etta Scott, chairperson of the event, said that emphasizing Dr. King’s nonviolent approach to solving the country’s problems would be highlighted this year.
“If you want to know where violence begins, it starts in the home and the way we teach our children respect for others, so quit blaming everybody else and the police. . .,” Dunston said.
Dunston brought the packed crowd to its feet when he said, “There were things back in the old-days when I was raised that you just did not do; there was a line that you did not cross, or you knew you would hear from your parents, your mamma and daddy, and grandparents. Now, we have gotten caught up with the new age, and we let everything go on in the home, and some of us parents don’t say anything about it. “We let our kids play violent video games 24/7 and never say anything about it,” he said.
“Our homes used to be so strict that you didn’t even sit in the same room with the adults when they discussed grown-up matters. You were asked to go in your bedroom. Now parents discuss everything right in front of the kids, and the next day it’s on the streets,” said Dunston.
Keynote speaker, the Rev. Jimmy Richardson, told the congregation that Mississippi has come a long way since the violent civil rights days, and the state is still moving forward and has more ground to cover. “We must, however, come together to solve our problems,” he said, “and keep Dr. King’s dream alive.
“I am glad that I see some white faces in this congregation today, and I wish there were more,” he said.
“Keeping the Dream Alive” was the theme of MLK Day.
Said Richardson, “Dr. King said that he had a dream that one day America would rise up and live by the creed that it preaches, that all men are created equal. . .and God is no respector of person, that all men are equal in God’s eyes. . .”
He added, “If God made us in his own image and equal before him, then why do we have this problem, why do some think they are better than others?”
Other speakers included board of supervisors president J. Patrick Lee, State Sen. Tony Smith, and Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero, Jr. Other county and city officials present were councilman Larry Watkins and councilman Larry Breland. Also on hand was Dub Herring, who was king of festivities, and queen of festivities, Christine Frelix Doby, and Elder David Simmons, grand marshal and pastor of Rose of Sharon.
Also present, covering two front benches, were a group of Pearl River County ministers from the county’s black churches.
Mistress of ceremonies was Belinda Porter.
Supervisor Lee said he had been inspired by the preaching and singing. “If I weren’t a big boy, I probably would have broke down and cried when that choir sang.”
Lee said he had two things he wanted to share. “We as a county and communities and the cities need a vision of what we want to be and where we are headed, and I have a vision. We need jobs for our people and there’s only one way to get that, and it’s by attracting industry here,” said Lee. “I have made a commitment to do that, and I want you to join me in the quest.
“I also recognize, and we all need to recognize, that as we try to move forward here, we will be criticized, but it’s something we must face and handle. I would rather be bloodied some than to stand around and do nothing. You will always be criticized, but we must get in the arena and fight for what we believe in, even though we know some will misinterpret our intentions,” said Lee to a round of applause. He then quoted Scripture, “Without a vision, the people perish.”
Senator Smith told the church that his main objective is to serve each constituent of his district. “If you have any problems, I want you to get in touch with me. I want to know what your views are and what your hopes are for the future of Picayune, Poplarville and Pearl River County,” Smith said. Smith represents the 47th Senate District in the State Legislature and lives in Picayune.
Pinero told the congregation that he was moved by the service, the speakers and the choir, and added, “I am not ashamed to tell you that I am a Christian and believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior.”
Also appearing were the “2013 Gospel Community Workshop Choir,” a choir made up of young people, and its renditions, especially of “Awesome,” moved the crowd. Also performing was DeCarlo Jenkins, who performed a free-style dance in honor of Dr. King.
An old-fashioned dinner-on-the-grounds was held after the church services.
The parade was substantial and well attended.
Scott said planning will begin for next year’s celebration, which, she said, she hopes will continue to grow each year.