Recalling Dr. King’s impact in Mississippi

On Monday, we will celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. The holiday has been celebrated since 1986, three years after President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law (1983), 18 years after the assassination of Dr. King.

I haven’t been able to identify instances where Dr. King might have visited the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but we do know that he made a number of trips to Mississippi, to Jackson, Meridian and possibly Philadelphia. Some might argue that the need for his presence was greater in other parts of the state. Regardless, all can agree that his impact has certainly been felt in our three coastal counties.

“He was a tremendous inspiration to the people who were struggling for their rights as Americans,” said Sid Rushing, President and CEO of Gaston Point Community Development Corporation. “His tactics, his principles not only affected black people, but all people who were struggling for their rights in America.

“Rights have never been handed to you on a platter,” said Rushing. “Civil rights have always been a struggle. Dr. King gave them a tactic of non-violent resistance.”

Retired Pass Christian Public Schools educator, Clementine Williams described what the inspiration of Dr. King meant to her while she was a college student. “He gave us the incentive to become in-volved. He made us feel that we were empowered,” recalled Williams. “Even though our parents told us that we were too young and we should not get involved.

Williams said that she remembered going to a meeting in Philadelphia prior to the Freedom Summer murders of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

Williams said that she never saw Dr. King personally, but she believed that he most likely spoke on spoke on the campus of Tougaloo College (now Tougaloo University).

“Tougaloo was like the center of the civil rights movement in Mississippi,” said Williams. “I know he came to Jackson more than once. I think he might have also spent time in Philadelphia and Meridian.”

“King was a different type of civil rights leader,” recalled Rushing. “King was effective. His tactics and strategies helped bring much needed change at a more rapid pace.”

Opinion Poll: What does the Martin King Jr. Holiday mean to you?

“I look at this holiday and say this man was a servant to the churches and the community around the world, and that I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if he and others didn’t fight to give me that right. So as one of the city leaders, and working in my church and the community, I try and give back also and teach my children and grandchildren some of those same things.”
Anthony Hall, Ward III Alderman, City of Pass Christian

“This is a day of reflection for me. I use it to remind me of the sacrifices that have been made and the struggles that others endured so that I might enjoy the liberties I enjoy and have the opportunities I have.”
Dr. Carla J. Evers, Superintendent, Pass Christian Public Schools

“The MLK holiday is a reminder to me of the sacrifices that were made and the many strong shoulders on which I stand. It also reiterates the importance of me to advocate against social and civic injustices.”
Sonya Williams-Barnes, Businesswoman & State Representative, District 119

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is a day to reflect and celebrate his contributions as a leader for racial justice and equality for All.”
Joseph Piernas, Grand Knight, Knights of Peter Claver Council #26, Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church

“During this time of technology and instant gratification, Martin Luther King holiday is a reminder of what was, what people of color endured, how far we have come and what still needs to be done. Also a reminder to continue to teach the next generation of past struggles overcome and that they are the future to keep the torch burning bright that it may never go out. Because there is still much to be done despite the appearance that they have it easier than those who fought along with Dr. King. We still need people with courage now. Let’s all make a difference for the better of the world today. Thanks to Dr. King for a fight well done. And I pray that I am an example to the next generation.”
Regina Charlot, Ward II Alderwoman City of Pass Christian

Story by Maurice Singleton