By Sheena Barnett
TUPELO – Celebrating advances while recognizing there’s more work to be done was the focus of Sunday’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service.
Music, speakers and drill teams celebrated King’s vision at the 27th annual service, presented by the Committee for King at the Tupelo Civic Auditorium.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton laid out his goals for the city and challenged the audience to help make Tupelo a better city for all of its citizens.
“When we’re unified and moving forward, we’re unstoppable,” he said.
He said he and other young leaders were educated in integrated school systems, and that’s led to big changes in how they work now.
“There was no ‘your team’ and ‘my team,’ but our team,” Shelton said. “Let us proudly reflect on how far we’ve come, but unite in our belief that our best days are yet to come.”
The Drum Major Award recipient was James Mickey Linder, who coached thousands of students in the Tupelo Public School District.
“He coached from the heart,” said former Tupelo superintendent Randy McCoy, who presented Linder with the award. “He was a players’ coach.”
Linder told the audience he knew God loved him and all children, and he strove to do the same as a coach.
“Keep God first, and everything else will fall into place,” he said.
The service made history, as Blanca Johnson served as its first Latina emcee.
“Martin Luther King was, is and will always be my inspiration,” she said.
Former “American Idol” contestant and Miss Riverland Jasmine Murray, Miss Mississippi Chelsea Rick and the MLK Jr. Commemorative Choir also performed at the service.
The event was kicked off with performances by drill teams, made up of young church members from across the region.
Tupelo’s celebration of King began Friday with Apollo Night and continued Saturday with a banquet and continues today.
A motorcade will begin at 11 a.m. from the VF Outlet Mall.
A birthday celebration will begin at noon at St. Paul United Methodist Church, where Rev. Gloria McKinney will be the guest speaker.