Jason Shelton

JASON SHELTON

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness – only light can do that.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January is often considered the bleakest of months. The cold days and nights usually find us lying dormant and waiting for spring . . . waiting for the light, warmth and awakening that will eventually come. How fitting that amid this darkness we celebrate and honor one of the brightest lights, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King’s message of love, non-violence and peacefulness was a model for a great period of change in our nation and continues to be used as a model of inspiration today. Dr. King is credited, as he should be, more than any one person for his contribution to equality and the civil rights movement. Dr. King’s words are as relevant today as the day he spoke them:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed – we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

The “I Have A Dream” speech is one of the most inspiring and famous oratories in history. It has been replayed and celebrated thousands of times, and for good reason. His words gripped, inspired and energized our nation at a time when change was resisted. Not only was change resisted, it was met with violence and hatred. It is a difficult conversation for us to have, because it reveals a side of humanity that we would rather not remember. Yes, change did come but not without sacrifice. Dr. King gave the ultimate sacrifice for his dream – his life. This is why it is so very important, if not imperative, that we recognize, honor and commemorate Dr. King.

Tupelo has the largest MLK celebration in the state of Mississippi with events scheduled all weekend. The City of Tupelo, Committee for King, and several community businesses and individuals have donated their time and resources to provide a wonderful four-day celebration.

“Apollo Night” opens the celebration this Friday night, Jan. 17, at 6 p.m. at Tupelo Civic Auditorium. Youth talent will be showcased through music, theatre and dance.

The “Black Tie Affair” is Saturday night at 7 p.m. on Jan. 18 at BancorpSouth Arena with dinner, music, guest speaker Dr. Robert Solomon, and recognition of Community Service Award and Image Award recipients.

Sunday brings celebration of word, dance and song at the Civic Auditorium at 2:30 p.m. and includes performances by Doniphan Dance Project, Memphis-based Hattiloo Theatre, University of Mississippi’s Phi Beta Sigma step team along with the fabulous MLK Choir, local vocalists and Tupelo Public School District students. A reception will follow and various “Shine A Light” organizations will share their work reflecting Dr. King’s philosophy of social justice, anti-poverty initiatives, and nonviolence while bringing positive change to Tupelo, Lee County and Northeast Mississippi.

The MLK Day Celebration is Monday, Jan. 20, at noon at St. Paul Christian Life Center with guest speaker Dr. Richard Price. MLK scholarship recipients will also be recognized.

I invite you to join us for these events to honor the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His dream is still alive, and we remain committed to improve our city with initiatives and programs that reflect and celebrate the diversity of Tupelo. The Tupelo Spirit has always reflected a diverse group of thinkers from different races, religions, backgrounds and cultures. With goals for the common good of our community and a deep respect for each other, we have accomplished great things together. My hope is that we continue to work harmoniously together and our city remain a shining beacon of light – not only for our citizens, but also as a place that Dr. King would be proud.

JASON SHELTON is the mayor of Tupelo. Readers can contact him at jason.shelton@tupeloms.gov

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