NAACP celebrates life, legacy of MLK

Dozens of people took part in a march to commemorate the life and contributions of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday. The march began on Dr. Douglas L Conner Drive and wrapped through downtown before concluding at Unity Park (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

SDN Editor

A slight chill in the air didn’t stop dozens on Monday from honoring the life and legacy of not only civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., but other local leaders who carried on King’s mission of equal rights for all.

A march, headed up by the Oktibbeha County Chapter NAACP, began on Dr. Douglas L. Conner Drive and crossed Dr. Martin Luther King Drive before snaking through downtown Starkville and concluding at Unity Park.

Each speaker touched on King’s contributions, but also discussed the impact had by both those who came before the current leaders in the community and the activists of today.

Outgoing NAACP President Chris Taylor served as master of ceremonies at the culmination of the day, with both the leader of the collegiate chapter at Mississippi State and the new president of the Oktibbeha Chapter speaking to the crowd.

“Today should be something to remind us of the fight in the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said MSU Chapter President Amber Dodd.

Dodd said it was important to celebrate how far Oktibbeha County — and the nation as a whole — has come in the years since King led the movement. But she said it is equally as important to not lose sight of how far there is still yet to go.

“There’s a lot of things we can still work on as a community … a lot of things we need to work on and chip away at,” she said.

Other dignitaries followed Dodd, including Starkville Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins and Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer. Both are black men who are the longest serving members of their respective boards.

Perkins spoke on behalf of the city and Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill, who was out of town and could not attend the event on Monday.

He praised the work of Police Chief Frank Nichols for keeping the event safe and then gave a nod to the Unity Park committee for making the day possible.

“We certainly would not be the city we are today without your input, your involvement and presence,” Perkins said. “We want to charge you to continue to work and provide service so we can provide Starkville a better place to live, learn and work. We do that and I think Dr. King would be pleased with all of us.”

Yulanda Haddix was recently elected as the new president of the Oktibbeha Chapter NAACP and served as the keynote speaker for the culmination of the Day of Service, which saw volunteer efforts across the city and county, geared toward honoring the legacy of King.

“If you didn’t vote, you elected me anyway,” Haddix said, alluding to a central part of her platform as it relates to voter engagement. “That’s my key thing, you have to vote.”

Haddix grew up in the Rockhill community and said she attended both segregated and integrated schools in her academic career.

“The NAACP mission is to eliminate race-based discrimination,” Haddix told the crowd. “Our goal is to make sure everybody is treated equally, eliminate social and economic disadvantages. Also make sure everybody in the community gets involved.”

The community involvement is where Haddix hopes to make a noticeable impact and hopes to rally the support of current NAACP members to help the club grow and expand its engagement.

With roughly 100 dues-paying members, Haddix said success starts with making sure those paying into the organization are contributing as much as they can of their volunteer hours and time.

“Imagine the possibilities, imagine the possibility if everybody who is an active NAACP member would actually do some work,” she said. “I know we have over 100 paid members. If every person that paid their dues participated. Also imagine if every person in Oktibbeha County would register to vote and go vote. My biggest hope is if you will imagine the possibilities.”