• 27°

A day to keep going,’ Blackmon says

Former state Sen. Barbara Blackmon of Canton speaks at the Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship breakfast this morning at Rainbow Casino Arena. (Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post)

[1/19/04]Former state Sen. Barbara Blackmon encouraged Vicksburg people to remember the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“This is not just a day off, but a day to keep going,” Blackmon said this morning at the annual birthday celebration of King’s birthday.

A candidate for lieutenant governor last year, Blackmon also criticized appointments made by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who took office last week. She called on the 250 people attending the 15th annual Omicron Rho Lambda chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity scholarship breakfast to oppose the lack of minorities that have been nominated by Barbour.

“It’s a sad day when the only people the governor believes are qualified to serve in his cabinet are white males,” Blackmon said. “Oh, I forgot, he does have one token minority, but the days of tokens has passed.”

Out of 12 appointments made by Barbour, all but one have been white men. Chris Epps, who is black, was reap-pointed by Barbour as the commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

“We need to let him know that those days of all-white or almost all-white cabinets will not be tolerated,” Blackmon said.

Blackmon, a senator from Canton for 12 years, gave up the seat to run for lieutenant governor. She won the Democratic nomination, but lost to Republican Amy Tuck who began her second term this month. Barbour defeated Democrat Ronnie Musgrove and took the oath of office last week.

Today would have been the 75th birthday of King, who was slain in Memphis in 1968. He visited Vicksburg several times during his ministry and the Civil Rights Movement.

This is the 19th federal holiday in his honor and is also a state holiday. City, county and federal offices and schools are closed. In Mississippi, the day is a concurrent holiday with that commemorating the birth of Robert E. Lee, commander of Confederate forces during the Civil War.

The Rev. Mitchell L. Dent, founding pastor of Mt. Carmel Ministries and former Vicksburg police chief, was scheduled to be the speaker for the 18th annual birthday celebration at 1 p.m. at City Auditorium on Monroe Street. It was being sponsored by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Day Committee, the Mississippi chapter of Blacks in Government and the NAACP.

At 5:30 p.m. today, the public is asked to gather at the Dr. Martin Luther King Monument on Martin Luther King Drive for the ceremonial lighting of a torch.