Annual breakfast honors King’s life and legacy

Published 9:00 pm Monday, January 15, 2018

If people want to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, they need to need to get involved in their communities and act to change the problems affecting them.

“Dr. King’s accomplishments are well documented,” Kelsey Rushing, 27th Southern Regional vice president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., told more than 300 people attending the fraternity’s 29th Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Scholarship Breakfast sponsored by its Omiocron Rho Lambda Chapter.

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“As we reflect on King’s courage and optimism in the shadow of death, the question is, can we make it to this proverbial promise land,” Rushing said. “Clearly, Dr. King was speaking to the long and suffering sons and daughters of African Americans when he referenced ‘we’ as a people.

“Given his fervent belief in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, there is little doubt he believed that one day America as a nation must arrive at this promise land. King realized that black people and people of good will and with the love of community would struggle to reach that fulfillment.”

Drawing on the theme for this year’s observance of King’s birthday — “Remember, Celebrate and Act — Rushing quoted King, saying, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved as he who helps to perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it, is really cooperating with it.”

“This is where the rubber meets the road today,” he said. “Where we see injustice anywhere we should speak. We should not be silent simply because it is not us. When we see injustice directed to the poor, we should speak. When we see injustice directed to the disadvantaged of us, we should speak.

“When see injustice directed toward anyone, we should speak.”

In the changing social and political climate, Rushing said, African Americans need to re-examine not only their place in the world, but how they view themselves.

“We must create and not be afraid to speak of our new narrators, both socially and politically,” he said.

“When you go anywhere in the world, there’s a place called ‘the other side of town.’ This is where your crime happens. So who lives over there? The poor. The undereducated. The disenfranchised. Your unemployed, the downtrodden, all living in small cramped areas.

“There’s the tension of hopelessness that turns in on itself in this country. Who are by and large the poor, the undereducated, the disenfranchised, the unemployed, the downtrodden, placed in a part of the town stacked on top of one another in less than humane conditions?”

Young black men are jailed at twice the rate of other races, Rushing said, and when they are released from prison they return to a world that no longer welcomes them and creates an environment that leads back to prison.

“The violence in our community is not a product of our being black, it is a product of the environment in which we were placed. It’s not black on black crime, it’s poverty on poverty crime. It’s disenfranchised on disenfranchised crime. You simply cannot place a human being in a hostile environment and not expect those results.”

Too many times, he said, educated black men and women leave the communities where they grew up for more affluent areas.

“I find myself listening to my own people acknowledging my own people as ‘they and them’ instead of ‘we and us.’ So when we speak of a day on and not a day off, … we must once again rediscover who we are and discover our purpose.

“The role has changed, but it is the purpose that supersedes it all. We must once again, through our acts, rediscover the purpose for which Dr. King gave his life, and there was justice and equality for all. Because when we forget that we had a purpose, we forget our vision, we forget our direction, we forget our call we forget our community.

“We forget the very essence for which King fought and died.”

Recalling a line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Rushing said, “Let us remember him on the mountain top looking over into the promise land, knowing he would not get there.”

King’s message of the mountaintop, he said, “Was a clarion call for a cross-generational struggle for a more perfect union and a creation of that promised land. Our people and our community will overcome in the end.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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