"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." –– Martin Luther King, Jr.

The NAACP Hancock County Branch and the Waveland Helping Hands Community Organization on Monday celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with several events. 

The morning began with a march to Mount Chapel Baptist Church for a program dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Karen McKay welcomed attendees. 

"We all know what Martin Luther King stood for and people should remember and put forth to live on his legacy," McKay said. 

Waveland Mayor Mike Smith said that "his dream is why we are here today."

"Dr. King, when he faced all the trials and the blowback that he got, he met it face on with love," Smith said. "And we all have to live by that sentence that Dr. King said. We have to love each other and if we love each other and we forget the little petty stuff that fights us and looks at us every day." 

Program emcee Art Clementin spoke about an experience he had at a Jackson college in 1965. 

"We had some real issues," he said. "We can't even walk across the street. So we decided to put together a group effort, allow us to be able to walk from one side of the campus to the other and the people came and ran us down in cars." 

Clementin said the group called on Martin Luther King, Jr., who came. 

"One of the most difficult things that I can remember about Dr. King is he said this 'you've got to put something in it if you want to get something out of it,''' Clementin said. "We were going to march. But then he said a thing that got me upset. 'If you can't be non-violent, get out of the line.' The first time, I got out of the line because I was angry. But then it was time to get back in the line. And I've been in the line ever since. Because sometimes the road is difficult." 

Clementin said that, in the middle of the night, group members were bussed to north Mississippi, "went through two miles of corn and cotton to an old barn and registered 150 people to vote." 

NAACP Hancock County Branch President Gregory Barabino stressed the importance of "coming together more often." 

"Discuss our issues whatever they are, personal, global, national, state, let's just discuss it and find an agenda that we want to accomplish and find a way to do it," he said. "He (Martin Luther King) did not die so we could talk about the past. Let's talk about the present and plan our future." 

The program's guest speaker was New Hope Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Pearlington Pastor Robert Preston. 

"We're here today to honor a great man," he said. "He had the dream and he relayed the dream to us. And sometimes I feel like we're still trying to have the dream. We don't have to have the dream, we have to live and make the dream happen. We have to make things happen." 

Preston said that, in preparation for Monday's program, he studied some of Martin Luther King's quotes. 

"If we do and live up to some of the quotes that he allowed for us to pick to up the pace and make things happen," Preston said. "It's so easy to shift blame on somebody else, but my brothers and sisters, nobody can make things happen but us. You make it happen. You have to fight for it. You have to sacrifice for it and sometimes it takes blood, sweat, and tears, but if you want it, you will do everything that you can do to make it happen.”

Preston shared quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., including, “Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.” 

“We make the better day, if we all commit to being better, if we just look at ourselves and each individual say, ‘I’m going to make a difference,’’’ Preston said. “It takes work, it takes sacrifice, it takes tears. Dr. King had to sacrifice himself, he sacrificed his family, he sacrificed his time.”

Preston shared another quote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 

“It may not matter to you, but it will matter to you later,” Preston said. “And if matters to our neighbor, it ought to matter to me. Because when you start keeping silent and seeing wrong and refuse to speak about it, when you see things that are not right, when you see hate trying to outshine light, you are being silent.”

Preston said that Martin Luther King had the dream and “we are the fulfillers.” 

After the program, the city of Waveland hosted a ribbon cutting at the completed community center, located at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park on Herlihy Street. 

In addition to the construction of the 1,200 square foot community center, the city also installed new playground equipment. 

Smith said that he and the current board of aldermen are “proud to be a part of a board that can do this for this park. It was much needed.” 

Waveland Helping Hands Community Organization President Earllean Washington spoke at the ribbon cutting. 

“I know we hear a lot of complaints about the size of the building,” she said. “But I was taught a long time ago that expensive gifts can come in very small packages. Let’s not let the size of this building stop us from doing something that will benefit this community. I like to think of it as a knowledge building. A building where adults as well as children can learn.” 

Helping Hands member Clarence Harris also spoke. 

“We appreciate the community, we appreciate the city,” he said. 

Harris said that in 1987, there was a ribbon cutting for the MLK Park.

In the near future, Harris said, the building will be named after his aunt Oreader Richardson. 

After the ribbon cutting, Studio Waveland on Coleman Avenue, celebrated MLK Day with an MLK-inspired art exhibit, including the mural “It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint” by Wende and JoLean. 

In a description about the mural, the pair wrote that, “Rather than paint a straight forward image of his likeness, we chose imagery that relates his bravery and courage as a Civil Rights leader in modern day context. Painted in a comic book motif, the focal images consist of slain rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle, an obscured depiction of Emmett Till’s casket photo and famed female superhero character Sister Night from Watchmen.” 

The pair said that the title of the piece is derived from the concept of the word “race.”

“Thinking about how we define our differences in America has not surpassed the color of our skin. We separate ourselves by 'races' which is a made up concept,” the pair wrote. “In thinking about the word race, we also use it in another context such as 'foot race.' The meaning of a race on foot applied to the way we use race to define ourselves denotes that there has to be an order and most of all a winner. This signifies that someone has to be in the lead and come in first. We as a people should not think about ourselves as running a race, but a marathon. A marathon is based on people not running to win, but running to finish. Despite our skin color, we are all the same and we’re all running the same 'race' called life. We should judge ourselves by how we endure the long distance of life rather than who gets there first. So the title alludes to an ideal that we shouldn’t run to get ahead but run to endure.” 

Studio Waveland owner Erica Gaudet said that the MLK-inspired exhibit will be available for viewing for about a month. Studio Waveland is located at 228 Coleman Ave. 

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