MLK remembered at birthday celebration

Published 9:17 am Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Civil Rights activist the Rev. Edwin King speaks Monday night during the 29th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration at City Auditorium. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Civil Rights activist the Rev. Edwin King speaks Monday night during the 29th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration at City Auditorium. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Monday members of the Vicksburg community and the surrounding area joined together at the Vicksburg City Auditorium take part in the 29th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration.

The theme for this year’s event was “Remember! Celebrate! Act!; A Day On, Not A Day Off.”
The mistress of ceremonies, Justice Foster-Moran, a student at Warren Central High School, said the celebration turned out great.

“Things went well,” she said. “I enjoyed the speaker, and it was an honor to sit next to him tonight.”

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The speaker Foster-Moran sat next to was Reverend Edwin King, Methodist minister, civil rights activist and educator.

Preceding Rev. King’s speech were greetings by many leaders in the community, including Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs, Jr. who issued a proclamation recognizing the bravery and courage of Rev. King.

Rev. King is a native of Vicksburg and a graduate of Millsaps College, where he studied closely under Medgar Evers, Mississippi civil rights activist.

“I was lucky enough to have good teachers and good events to teach me along the way,” he said. “I never wanted to be out in front, but there I was.”

Rev. King was arrested with Ralph Abernathy, another well-known civil rights activist, in the ’60s for meeting with a group of church leaders consisting of different races.

“Luckily Martin [King] had gone out of town the day before,” he said.

That was not his only run-in with the law, Rev. King said.

“When I ran for lieutenant governor I was arrested,” he said. “One policeman said it was for improper signal, and the other said it was for no signal.”

The penalty for the alleged violation was one year in Parchman and a $1,000 fine.

“If I tried to appeal it, they said it would double,” Rev. King said.

He went on to credit his early Sunday school teacher at Crawford Street Methodist Church for getting him to truly think about civil rights.

“One Sunday we went in and we talked about what the Germans were doing [during World War II],” he said. “The teacher asked us if that was different than what Americans did to the Native Americans. The next week they asked if it was different than what we were doing to the colored.”

Rev. King said many people in the United States wanted change to come but trusted that someone else would come up with a solution. He encouraged audience members not to fall into the same trap.

“There are things wrong that we can’t even see right now,” he said. “Hopefully one day our great-grandchildren will look back and say ‘how could they not see that?’”

While all the speakers made remarks acknowledging the hard work and service of both Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Rev. Edwin King, retired Brig. Gen. Robert Crear touched on a few of Rev. King’s awards.

The activist has received honorary doctorates from Tougaloo College, where he served as chaplain beginning in 1963, and Millsaps College, his undergraduate alma mater. In 2011, the National Civil Rights Museum gave him a Freedom Award.

In addition to the speaker, the celebration also featured entertainment. The Church Growth Conference Choir performed several songs throughout the program, and a group comprised of Mikayla Archie, Audrey Claiborne, Toni Green, Tanijeha Mullen and Kerrica Watson performed a dance.

“They called us and asked if they could perform specially for this program,” said Linda Sweezer, pastor at The House of Peace Worship Church International and founder of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Day committee.

Rev. Casey Fisher, pastor at Greater Grove Baptist Church, concluded the evening with a benediction, but before his prayer, he had a few last words to say about Rev. King.

“I’ve only had this feeling two times in my life,” Fisher said. “Once when I was playing basketball with Michael Jordan – I did more watching than playing – and now when I can shake hands with this man who has done so much and had his hand in Rev. Martin Luther King’s.”