RIPLEY • Big Shoes. That was the message conveyed at the 35th Annual Martin Luther King Memorial Celebration at the Ripley High School Auditorium this past Sunday, Jan. 19.

 A prominent leader in the modern civil rights movement, Dr. King was an assiduous advocate for the working class and racial equality. He was a crusader for inclusion and justice and a shining example of compassion and love.

Dr. King’s dream means different things to different people. During the ceremony, Beatrice Mitchell’s class from Blue Mountain told the crowd what his dream means to them:

“Dr. King’s dream means that I have a chance to sit at a table filled with love and fellowship with people who are different than me. I have a chance to sit at a table and be served with dignity and respect. Thank you, Dr. King,” said Mia Knox.

” Dr. King dreamed that I could invest in my education and I can run and play with my classmates because a merry-go-round has no sides. We have a chance to let freedom ring with love, unity, and equality because Romans 2 verse 11 says, ‘There is no respect in persons with God.’ Thank you, Dr. King,” said Eva Foote.

Monday, Jan. 20 marked the 37th anniversary of the first federal holiday honoring reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday, Dr. King’s legacy was honored by seven different performances from multiple parts of Tippah County.

Martha Gray called the ceremony to order and was followed by scripture reading by Rev. Terry Smith. Rev. Smith read from Psalm 46: 1-11. Following the reading of scripture was the invocation by Rev. Bo Colyer, and then a singing of The Negro National Anthem by Shad Spight.  Evelyn Hoyle Guyton blew the roof off with her version of “America.” Color Guard was presented by Dr. Willie Payne, and shortly after, the emcee for the afternoon, Beverly Baylis, was introduced. Miriam Anderson greeted everyone before a few performances by Terry Street Male Chorus, Beatrice Mitchell’s Class and the St. James Sunshine Band.

Mayor Chris Marsalis presented the Keys to the City and left the youth with one request: “Finish your education, go get more education and come back to Ripley because we need you. Martin Luther King would want this.” He bragged on the talent and how valuable the youth in our community are.

Next, Brandon Colom introduced the keynote speaker to the crowd, Pastor Bartholomew Orr. Ripley Second Baptist Church gave a lovely performance of “He Will See Us Through” followed by performances from Coleman Temple, South Tippah Varsity Choir, and Flatwood Grove.

When asked by a peer if she felt out of place at the MLK ceremony, The South Tippah Varsity Choir Director Courtney Rutherford stated, “Do I feel out of place at a Black History program? Absolutely not, it is not about color. It is about history.” She then went on to thank people in the audience for not making her feel out of place. The song the choir performed was called “Pray for Peace.”

                The Milton Colom Community Service Award was received by Carolyn Prather and the Annie Prather Lifetime Achievement award was presented to St. John Missionary Baptist ChurchPastor Billy Geanes. Martha Gray gave a word of thanks and closing the ceremony was a Benediction by Dr. James Dye.

During the message, Pastor Orr preached from 2 Kings Chapter 2: 9-14 and presented many inspiring challenges to the crowd.

“Who will step up, how can we remember without retreating to the past? How can we do more?”

 He then left us with the answer,

“Jesus proved that we could do more. Our prayer ought to be to ask for double, and then do more.”

We as American people must be the one. Dr. King did not wait for someone to fight for justice and inclusion, he put his feet to his prayers, and he got the job done. Jesus didn’t wait for someone else to be the one. He proved time and time again that we are capable of more and that we are called to fight the good fight day in and day out. Rev. King left us with big shoes to fill and it is our duty as Americans, red, yellow, black and white, to keep his legacy alive in our hearts, our daily lives and our communities.

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