M.L. King Day celebrated with sign’s unveiling 1/21/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 21, 2014

M.L. King Day celebrated with sign’s unveiling

By Emily D. Williams
After a breakfast prepared by the ladies of Mt. Zion M.B. Church Monday morning, a crowd of several hundred moved outdoors to begin a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Day…and to witness the unveiling of history.

A photo published later in Ebony Magazine captured Dr.  King after he spoke at Mt. Zion Church in 1968.

At the exact location where King was pictured speaking to a group of eager students from Patton Lane School, an official historical marker has been installed.

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It reads, “On Tuesday, March 19, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a number of his aides came to Batesville to enlist participants in a planned Washington camp-in. While in Batesville, Dr. King spoke to Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church to explain how the march on Washington was designed to bring awareness to the working and living conditions of underprivileged Americans and demand that the federal government seek to improve those conditions.
Dr. King was assassinated two weeks later in Memphis, Tenn.”

In remarks as the sign was revealed, Dr. Zannie Leland, chairman of the MLK Day commemoration committee, pointed out the significance of Mt. Zion to the community.
“We call this our headquarters,” he said. “This historical landmark is here to let the next generation know. When children ask, ‘What is this marker for?’ They will know when visiting.”  
Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey expressed gratitude for the marker, obtained through the state Department of History and Archives.

“We worked for five years to get his marker and we are going to dedicate it today,” he said. “Next year it will be shining in the sun. The younger generation may not understand how rough it was.”
Lataisha Jackson, State Representative for District 11 said, “I can’t forget my roots because my roots put me here and I cannot forget the legacy here in Panola. The King in me speaks to the King in you. So we can continue the legacy.”

After the unveiling, groups from area churches and civic organizations gathered to march down Panola Ave. to the Batesville Intermediate School Auditorium for the commemoration services.
Speakers included Rev. Reginald Reed, Rev. Louis Wilson, Dr. Rubert Morgan, Rev. Alvin Bailey Sr. and Dr. Leland.

The South Panola High School Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y Choir performed a musical selection.

“Dr. King may be dead but his dream is still alive,” Rev. Louis Wilson said in introduction.

“Lives were sacrificed in the 50s and 60s in the ‘Land of the Free.’ It wasn’t exactly the Land of the Free for blacks or poor whites. Dr. King sacrificed his life so we may be able to live where we want, or to eat a meal where we want to eat a meal,” Dr. Rubert Morgan said in greetings.

The Martin Luther King Celebration Choir had the crowd raising their hands in response to their performance of “Every Praise is to Our God. God my Healer.”

Gary Faulkner of Cumming Street Baptist Church of Memphis gave the keynote address, referring to King’s famous “I have a dream” speech.

“I believe all of us can get along,” Faulkner said.

“We are here to resurrect the dream.”

He preached from John Chapter 2, which describes the wedding in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine.

“You may not be able to turn water into wine, but we can turn killing into kindness, greed into grace. One single act of kindness can help,” Faulkner said.

“Normal people can do extraordinary things. You can make a difference.”