From every hill and molehill in Mississippi
Published 1:06 pm Thursday, July 24, 2014
I felt the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s world-changing ideas as I was seated in an aging wooden pew at Pleasant Green Baptist Church this past Sunday.
I had the good fortune to attend the church’s commemoration of King’s 1964 visit to Vicksburg.
It was 50 years ago this week when King took to the lectern at Pleasant Green with a plan of action to follow and help achieve the dream he spelled out a year earlier in the 20th century’s greatest speech.
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King’s plan was simple and peaceful. He wanted to encourage blacks to exercise their right to vote. It took a great amount of courage for King to come to Mississippi, a little more than a month after three civil rights workers were gunned down in Neshoba County for doing the same thing.
It also took a great deal of courage and faith for Pleasant Green to host King. Members of the church were afraid their building would be bombed. But their spirit was strong, and they swore that if the church were destroyed by bomb or by fire, they would rise from the ashes and rebuild.
They, like King, had a dream and a plan.
King mentions the Magnolia State four times during his famous speech at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, and he wastes no opportunity to specifically spell out his dream for Mississippi.
“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice,” King told the hundreds of thousands of people — black men, white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics — gathered around the National Mall.
But how far have we come as a state?
I would say Mississippi no longer — at least openly — swelter with the heat of injustice and oppression. There is neither overt segregation nor major attempts to prevent anyone from exercising their Constitutional rights.
Those evils now simmer below the surface.
We still have troubles, but we can and we will overcome if we put our minds to it.
Can we ever respect each other as equals as long as our state spirals into political controversy any time the predominantly white Republican Party courts black voters?
Can we shed the manacles of poverty as long as we lag behind in education? Can we be rid of oppression and injustice as long as poor, uneducated men of any color slay other poor, uneducated men in our streets?
Our state, and our multitude of diverse people need a plan now more than ever.
We have come this far, and I for one, still refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.
Josh Edwards is a reporter and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 601-636-4545.