Mississippi communities celebrate MLK Day

Published 6:04 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Events ranging from community gatherings to basketball tournaments were held Monday in Mississippi to mark the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Most government offices, schools and many businesses were closed to observe the birthday of the slain civil rights leader.

The Mississippi Legislature, however, was still scheduled to convene in the evening to hear Gov. Haley Barbour give his State of the State address.

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Monday was a dual holiday in Mississippi. The state also was marking the birthday of Robert E. Lee, commanding officer of the Confederate Army, although there were few — if any — public events to remember Lee.

In Jackson, several hundred people attended the 16th Annual Prayer Breakfast at the Amazing Institute Church of God in Christ. Ministers and politicians, including Jackson Mayor Frank Melon, stressed the importance of continuing King’s legacy.

About 300 people attended the Martin Luther King Jr. Interracial and Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast Monday morning at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg.

Rabbi Uri Barnea of Temple B’nai Israel was the event’s guest speaker.

“We were very, very so much inspired by the guest speaker this morning,” said Michael Mitchell of Alpha Phi Alpha, the fraternity that sponsored the event. “He really showed the connection between Martin Luther King and Israel. I learned something I didn’t know. Israel is one of the only countries outside the United States to celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday.”

In Tupelo, the 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Commemorative Service took place on Sunday. Tupelo High School basketball Coach David Ball spoke about overcoming obstacles and faith.

Ball also spoke about seeing racism as a child and how his family fought to overcome it.

“I saw the chains passed from generation to generation called racism,” Ball said.

He recalled a time when his family went outside to eat with a black man who worked on his grandfather’s farm and was not allowed to eat inside the house.

“I saw hate for the first time that day,” Ball said. He restated King’s quote: “The greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Ball said it should be a goal to reach beyond King’s dream of equality for all.

“We are no longer hand-to-hand in raising Tupelo’s children,” he said. Ball said everyone should help ensure their communities by watching out for all children.

Ceremonies were also held on college campuses and, in the Jackson area, two basketball tournaments at Mississippi College in Clinton and Lanai High School in Jackson.

King was assassinated at age 39 on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tenn. He would have turned 79 this year.

King’s birthday is Jan. 15, but the federal holiday is observed on the third Monday in January. It has been a national holiday since 1986.