‘Investing in the future’: Rep. Bennie Thompson talks legacy, opportunity at MLK Scholarship Breakfast

Published 7:18 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

U.S. Rep. for Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district Bennie Thompson did not mince words Monday morning while serving as the keynote speaker for the 35th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast in Vicksburg.

“We want to make sure we are investing in the future with our young people,” Thompson said during the event hosted by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Omicron Rho Lambda Chapter. “Some people would rather build a prison than a school, but we have to make sure that we give our young people the best education possible.”

And Thompson’s message was on target for the fraternity’s Omicron Rho Lambda Educational Foundation, Inc., which annually awards scholarships to students in Warren County and promotes the teaching of the values Dr. King embodied.

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Thompson said both education and civil rights have come a long way due to Dr. King’s actions, but stressed that much is still to be done in the way of both equality and education.

“My mamma taught my daddy how to write his name,” Thompson told the crowd. “It was only because Black men weren’t allowed to go to school; they had to go to the field. So, that’s how far we’ve come. And it takes an organization like this that promotes scholarships to make sure that history does not repeat itself.”

Following Thompson’s address, fraternity members awarded a number of honors to local recipients, including the Community Service Award to the Medgar and Angela Scott Foundation and the individual honor to longtime Warren County teacher Grace Brown.

This year’s scholarships for the MLK, Jr. 7th Graders Essay Contest were also awarded. The 2024 recipients included: Warren County Junior High School’s John Ringold, son of Porshia Ferguson; Vicksburg Junior High School’s Geordon White, son of George and Yolanda White; Warren County Junior High School’s Shyah Lott, daughter of Wayne Wells and LaShandra Lott-Wells; Warren County Junior High School’s Ta’Myeria Curry, daughter of Willie Curry Jr. and Satava Ross; and Warren County Junior High School’s Peyton Funchess, daughter of Dexter Funchess and Peaches Turner.

Thompson said it is King’s legacy that paved the way for the opportunities today’s students have through organizations like Alpha Phi Alpha, adding the tradition of reaching out to the younger generation must not only continue, but also build upon today’s programs.

“If Dr. King were here today, he would be 95 years old,” Thompson said. “When he came to this community in the 60s, people were afraid to even come hear him speak, because the system had said he was a communist; he was an outside agitator. He couldn’t imagine a program like this with his name attached to it, where the mayor of the city looks like him. So, have we come a long way? Yes. Do we still have a long way to go? We sure do.”