Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday was celebrated with two memorial services in Tippah County on Sunday, Jan. 19. The first will be the 35th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial service at Ripley High School and the second was the ninth annual “We All Bleed Red” conference at Charity Church in Chalybeate.
Dr. King -- as with each of us -- was far from perfect. Like all of us, he had his shortcomings. Still, he deserves national recognition from all people -- black, white, red, and brown -- for what he did.
He dreamed of a better world -- one that was good and just and right -- and took action to make that dream a reality. He believed passionately in the power of every individual to make a difference, especially young people. He called for America to live out the true meaning of its creed, as he said in his "I have a dream" speech.
In the segregated South, the white power structure felt threatened by Dr. King, whom many in the structure saw as a rabble-rouser. The 1960s were violent, bloody times in Mississippi. Some civil rights workers paid with their lives, and paid in this state. The trio of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered just south of us in Philadelphia, and buried in an earthen dam. Medgar Evers was shot to death from ambush in this state.
Dr. King paid a high price for his beliefs – second-class citizenship, beatings, jailings, and an officially sanctioned whispering campaign against him. Ultimately, he too died for what he believed in, assassinated by a sniper in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
King's efforts ultimately prevailed, however, despite his death. Those efforts helped cause the collapse of legal segregation, as justly it should have, and consigned it to the ashheap of history.
Perhaps because of that many whites, then as well as today, still don't understand that, ironically, Dr. King may have been their best friend.
When many blacks called for violent rebellion and revolution, Dr. King directed that anger into a non-violent push for full equality in the American system. When many preached violence, Dr. King advocated love for his enemies, and a reconciliation of the races.
Dr. King's influence had faded in the last few years of his life, because many black leaders viewed him as too soft.
Still, his belief in social Christian ethics -- that all races are under the common fatherhood of God -- may have saved this country, including Tippah County, from still more violent and prolonged racial strife.
All people created equal under God, liberty and justice for all as a birthright of every human being -- haven't we heard these words before? As a matter of fact, we have -- they're echoes down through the centuries from the Founding Fathers, reflected in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.