MLK III here for 50th celebration
By Ashley Crutcher
The celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Mule Train and the Poor People’s Campaign began Monday with an extra special guest, Martin Luther King III.
After all, it was his father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who led the 28 wagons, pulled by mules, from Marks towards their intended destination, Washington D. C.
King and his support staff stayed in a Batesville hotel and visited here locally with citizens who took part in his father’s Poor People’s Campaign this week. The campaign set out on May 13, 1968 to raise awareness for those stricken by poverty and suffering from a lack of job opportunities.
Upon his arrival to Marks, King noticed the new Amtrak Stop, which was opened last Friday and admired the plans for a community park, which the town has already begun on the playground according to Quitman County Administrator Velma Benson-Wilson.
Being in the Delta, the birth place of the Blues, King listed Albert and B.B. King as his favorite blues musicians. “With B. B. being at the top,” said King. “Since we have the same last name.”
During a press conference, King was presented with the key to the county, a medallion, a copy of Goldman’s Gold, which includes pictures from the 1968 scene when the campaign began, and a proclamation declaring the week of May 7-14 as the anniversary of the campaign.
Festivities will continue for the week and include two re-enactments, one of a student walk-out and then the Mule Train.
The Poor People’s campaign used slogans like “Jesus was a poor man” to raise awarness for the poverty stricken communities.
“We haven’t even scratched the surface in terms of eradicaiton. That doesn’t mean we haven’t made any progress,” said King.
He went on to discuss the $20 trillion federal budget and how it is baffling that there is still so many still in the area struggling from poverty.
“We’ve got to figure out how to utilize this incredible gift of land. How do you create a climate where it is more beneficial to more than just a few individuals,” said King.
According to King, the primary impact of the Mule Train and the Poor People’s Campaign was that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert Kennedy shed light on the most poverty stricken communities, which included Marks.
“Dad did not get to see it come to fruition, but the goal was to bring together poor blacks, whites, Native Americans from all walks of life to say to the policy makers We want to create a climate, what dad would have called a living wage and not just a minimum wage,” said King.
Fifty years later leaders like King still fight to promote higher wages to meet the cost of daily living. “I’m not saying you have to give people something, but you have to create a climate so that it is achievable to make a living wage. In America, it makes no sense to have a 20 plus trillion dollar economy and yet still have poor people.”
“We’ve made such incredible gains with technology, but as far as human progress we’ve made very little progress. So we can and must do better.”