Community leaders celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Commit, serve and work to make the world better, says King Day speaker
By Steve Short
Commit. Serve. Work.
A high school teacher-coach encouraged Milan residents to serve others to improve the community, during remarks given at the Martin Luther King Community Breakfast Monday morning at the Hawkins-Whitby building downtown.
Craig “Teddy” Pettigrew, a Milan High resource teacher and football coach, urged the audience to commit, serve and work to make the world better. “If you consider yourself a leader, you have to serve people,” Pettigrew said. “If you’re not using your gift to serve others, what do you have it for? Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
Referencing scripture, Pettigrew asked the audience to line up their plans in life with God’s word. “As leaders of our families in the community, and of any and every capacity of leadership, leaders have to line up with God,” he said.
Pettigrew said the King holiday is a time to celebrate Martin Luther King’s legacy of fighting for mankind. King, the civil rights leader who was shot and killed in Memphis in 1968, was committed to bringing equality for all mankind, he said. “Dr. King wanted us to be equal and work together and not bicker and argue,” said Pettigrew. He said civil rights advocates like King had to be in “one accord with God to endure all of the harsh punishment they took in a peaceful way, just as Jesus did.”
The annual breakfast event was led by Alderwoman Tammy Wade. She challenged residents to be good role models and to take a stand against criminal activity. “Say ‘I’m going to commit; I’m going to work; I’m going to serve,’” said Ms. Wade.
Volunteers serving the breakfast included County Court Clerk Joyce Brown, Circuit Court Clerk Cindy Flowers, Trustee Dana Davidson and former Mayor Don Farmer. Members of the St. Paul Baptist Church youth group helped serve food and performed an interpretive dance routine.
King Day Celebration
Following the community breakfast, a second King Day event was held at the Milan Polk Clark Enrichment Center.
A recording of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, made on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Aug. 1963 as part of a civil rights protest, could be heard as people gathered. King said that Negroes in America were crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination, one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation. “The Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land,” said King at the time.
During Monday’s program, a group of Milan students and adults wearing 60s style clothing reenacted the first civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, protesters made three marches in Alabama to secure fair voting rights, which were denied people through racially discriminatory practices. On Mar. 7, 1965, the first march, unarmed marchers were met by police using billy clubs and tear gas. The day became known as Bloody Sunday. Two subsequent marches followed. The night of the second march, three ministers were brutally beaten. James Reeb, a 38 year-old minister and civil rights activist from Boston died two days later. During a third march, protesters were protected by U.S. soldiers and National Guard troops along the 54-mile route to Montgomery. An estimated 25,000 people reportedly joined the demonstration. Congress passed a national Voting Rights Act in August, 1965.
Ryan Ivory was one of those involved in Monday’s skit. He gave an account of the civil rights movement as it would have been seen through the eyes of a young boy. Ivory said he portrayed a fictional character, John Allen. He said he researched accounts from the era to know what people experienced.
The Polk Clark program involved many speakers and presenters. Mayor B.W. Beasley offered remarks about the city. The guest speaker was Rev. Matthew Tate, pastor of St. Mark Church of Christianity in Jackson. He was introduced by Lee Kelley, president of the Fourth Ward Activity Committee which hosted the event. Mr. James “Jake” Clark, a Fourth Ward Activity Committee member, gave a word of thanks.
Helen Kidd introduced Bobbie Donnell as the Mistress of Ceremony. Scheduled speakers were Deacon Willie Hawthorne of New Holy Temple COGIC in Milan; Elder Stanley Montgomery from Beach Grove Baptist Church in Bradford; County Commissioner Mark Flake of Milan; Shereka Phinnessee, Ruby Walker,
“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday is a perfect opportunity for Americans to honor Dr. King’s legacy through service,” said a printed message for the event. “The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community.”
Dr. King believed in a nation of freedom and justice for all,” said the program.