By NATHAN GREGORY
In observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, several events will take place Sunday and Monday in Starkville to celebrate his legacy.
Mississippi State University will host the 18th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Breakfast at the Colvard Student Union Monday. The community-wide celebration will feature former Mississippi Gov. William Winter as keynote speaker. The unity breakfast will begin at 7 a.m. followed by Winter’s speech at 8 a.m.
In conjunction with Woodmen of the World and Aflac, Volunteer Starkville will host America’s Sunday Supper at the Hilton Garden Inn from 5-6:30 p.m. Sunday. The event will feature an essay and oratorical contest in which winners will receive scholarships as well as a panel of speakers who will discuss topics such as social equality, justice and peace.
A community celebration hosted by the NAACP and Volunteer Starkville will be held at Second Baptist Church on 314 Yeates St. at 7 p.m. West Point Chief of Police Tim Brinkley will serve as keynote speaker for the event. There will also be a march and rally Monday at 1:30 p.m. on Main Street proceeding to the Oktibbeha County Courthouse. City of Starkville chancery clerk Monica Banks will speak at the rally.
The Council of Community Organizations of Oktibbeha County, in conjunction with the ABC Tomorrow Youth Council, is sponsoring the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at George Evans Park on Gillespie Street Monday beginning at 8 a.m. The organizations will also honor the late George Evans and work on park projects at the event.
Volunteer Starkville will host another service day Monday honoring King at Fire Station No. 1 on 503 Lampkin St. from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Volunteers will plant flowers and clean up the Palmer Home thrift store. The service day is sponsored by Wal-Mart and Little Caesar’s Pizza.
The MSU Maroon Volunteer Center and Volunteer Starkville will sponsor a celebration reception honoring King at the First United Methodist Church at 3 p.m.
Former Gov. Winter served as the state’s leader from 1980-1984. He previously served as a state representative, tax collector, treasurer and lieutenant governor and has served as chairman of several committees and founded the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi. He has also been awarded the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in 2008.
MSU President Mark Keenum said he is honored to have Winter as keynote speaker at Monday’s celebration.
“I am very proud that Mississippi State is host for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Unity Breakfast in our community. Diversity empowers and enriches any institution and the individuals within it,” Keenum said. “It gives us the opportunity to communicate, to know one another and to displace fear and prejudice with understanding and respect.”
Keenum said the fact that nearly a third of MSU’s enrollment is represented by minority groups is a testament to King’s body of work.
“I am pleased that 29 percent of this year’s Mississippi State students represent minority groups from our own country or are students from other cultures,” he said. “African-American enrollment this year reached a record high of 4,232, or 21 percent. That is a tribute to the people of our university and our community and an indication of how far we have come toward realizing the dream that Dr, King so eloquently described.”
COCO President Peggy J. Rogers said she expects a good turnout at the day of service event and is looking forward to using King’s holiday to make a contribution to the community along with honoring George Evans.
“A commitment to the dream for all generations represents a commitment to serve your neighbors and communities across the country as well as in Starkville. Our goal is to lift up the legacy by helping to eradicate problems such as homelessness, poverty and childhood obesity with viable solutions such as this day of service,” Rogers said. “In Dr. King’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” he said we all have to decide whether we ‘will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness.’ George Evans is an individual who decided to ‘walk in the light of creative altruism,’ and we are honoring him by cleaning and restoring the George Evans Park.”
Rogers said the day of service is also personal to her because it provides an opportunity to pass King’s teachings on to others.
“Preserving an awareness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is important to me. It is our responsibility as individuals to impact generations in the community and across the nation,” she said. “His concept of love, work and education was very strong and should be passed on and ingrained into each generation to follow.”