Martin Luther King Day in the Bay
By Cassandra Favre
Jan 21, 2014, 18:27
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
– The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame presents Lillian Rogers with a proclamation at Monday's Martin Luther King festivities at the MLK park in Bay St. Louis. Rogers was recognized for her work during the Civil Rights movement.
Dozens of community members, elected officials and children gathered on Monday to celebrate the first Martin Luther King, Jr "Unity" Celebration at Bay St. Louis' Martin Luther King Park.
The festivities began with a parade, where spectators heard "This Little Light of Mine" sung by the Men of God alongside Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame.
Children marched in the parade chanting, "Happy Birthday, Dr. King!"
Representatives from the NAACP, Helping Hands, Retrofit, Men of God, Krewe of Diamonds and the Hancock County Boys and Girls Club marched on until reaching MLK park, where the stage was set to honor Dr. King.
Fillingame described the past century as one of change.
"We were all blessed and graced to be influenced by Dr. Martin Luther King," Fillingame said. "Looking back at Martin Luther King, especially those of us who represent the people, not only was he a man of God, but he was one of the true outstanding statesmen of the last century.
"He was dedicated and committed to making a real change and difference in our world and doing it peacefully by calling among the men and women of God to move forward together."
Arthur Clementin of Men Of God talked of unifying the community.
"There's one reason for us being here and that's unity," Clementin said. "Unity for our purpose today is the coming together in singleness of mind and effort.
"Today we've come a long way in 50 years, but we've not got there yet, but we can get there. We're working at it, we must continue to work at it on a daily basis in unity of mind, spirit, love and by the divine guidance of God himself."
"As you leave this place here today," Clementin said. "Leave here with a renewed sense of unity; if not united, we perpetuate a messed-up society."
Keynote speaker Deacon Willie Robinson emphasized the importance of voting.
"I believe that we should vote and know the candidates we are voting for," Robinson said. "This is what Dr. Martin Luther King lived and died for.
"Young white kids gave their lives to come down here and help us get the right the vote and have a better life."
The city of Bay St. Louis and Men of God honored members of the community for their participation in the Civil Rights movement.
Fillingame presented 84-year-old Lillian Rogers with a proclamation for her participation in the march from Bay St. Louis to Ocean Springs in support of the dubious charges that were pressed against a black man named Christopher Moore.
Mrs. Rogers marched in Washington D.C. and participated in the NAACP and SCLC.
Fillingame presented 96-year-old Lillie Sams with a proclamation for her participation in the same march from Bay St. Louis to Ocean Springs.
Mrs. Sams was one of the first African-American teachers in Pearlington and participated in the Mississippi foster care program.
Men of God honored Oreader Richardson, Mable Bogan, Helen Sellers-Hampton and Alvina Nichols for their community service, quest for social equality and perpetuating the great work of the late Dr. King.
Clarence Harris of Helping Hands delivered the closing remarks.
"If you are a part of an organization and this community," Harris said. "get involved in your community. Everything that happens is about you and it's no longer black or white it's human.
"It's a human race, it's a community."
The celebration also included many musical performances: Four-year old Rayana Selvage sang "Take me to the King."
Leah Morris performed an interpretive dance.
Anthony Quinn recited the iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.
Men of God's Charles Johnson sang, "His Eye is on the Sparrow."
Sherrie Hill and Russell Fairconnetue performed, "A Change is Going to Come." Hill also led the crowd in a rendition of the National Negro Anthem "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing."
Morning Star Youth group performed a skit to the song "My God is Awesome."
"Everything was just beautiful," Event coordinator and Men of God member Charles Johnson said Tuesday. "I don't think we could have done anything differently.
"The crowd and people were beautiful, it was all carried out so well."
"I thank God for opening my eyes to do this and bring it to the Men of God to carry out," Johnson said. "My mind is already rolling on the next parade."