MLK: Looking back, working forward

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Joining neighbors to better the community and the world at large was a major theme at Sunday’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service.
Under the theme of “Seeking love, compassion, respect and racial harmony for all people,” speakers encouraged the attendees of the 23rd annual service to give back to their communities.
Guest speaker Mayor Jack Reed Jr. honored what he called “two sets of heroes” – the students who led school integration in the Tupelo area in the 1960s, and “white Mississippians who taught me how to conduct myself.”
Reed also spoke about his four major goals for Tupelo – creating more jobs, building safe and attractive neighborhoods, stressing the importance of learning and becoming one of the healthiest cities in the state – and said they are goals Tupelo citizens can realize together.
“These are not dreams for blacks, these are not dreams for whites – they are dreams for all of us, together,” he said.
The 18th Drum Major Award was given to former Gov. William Winter. Winter could not attend the service, so his award was accepted on his behalf by his daughter, Lele Gillespie.
“He is honored to receive this award,” she said.
The Rev. Charles Penson, chairman of the Committee for King, spoke about last week’s 7.0 earthquake in Haiti and encouraged Tupelo to donate to relief efforts.
“Whatever you do, give,” he said.
The program also included performances by the Tupelo Diversity Choir, the Northeast Mississippi Area Church Drill Team and the Tupelo High School Voices Black History Choir.
Emcee Julee Brown encouraged the audience to remember those who fought for racial reconciliation in the past and continue their legacy today.
“When you know better, you can do better,” she said.

Celebrations continue
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration continues today at 11 a.m., when a motorcade leaves the VF Outlet Mall for the St. Paul United Methodist Church.
Celebrations continue at the church at noon, including guest speaker the Rev. Roosevelt Gage, pastor of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church in Louisville.