MLK Day festivities begin with youth rally

Published 12:41 am Sunday, January 17, 2010

NATCHEZ — Local adults and children alike gathered Saturday to remember the sacrifices and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In an early celebration in anticipation of federal holiday honoring the late civil rights leaders, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women—Natchez Chapter hosted a Martin Luther King Jr. youth rally at McLaurin Elementary School with the theme “A dream fulfilled: a year later.”

The fulfilled dream referenced in the theme was the 2009 inauguration of the first black President of the United States.

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“We here in America have something to be proud of, especially last year,” Coalition of 100 Black Women President Emma Rose Jackson said. “We witnessed a historic moment when Barack Obama was elected President of America.”

Many of those in the audience may be what Jackson called “dream makers and dream catchers,” she said.

“We may have another president, astronaut or engineer here, so it is our mission as mentors, parents and educators to work with you to make things come true,” she said.

The rally was part inspirational message, part talent show and part history lesson, and included performances by singing and dance groups, and a quiz bowl in which participants had to answer questions about local and national civil rights history.

The guest speaker for the event was local student Ekeria Williams.

“How do you inspire kids when you’re just a kid, and you do not know anything about the hard times African-Americans had a long time ago?,” she asked.

After pondering the question for a while, Williams said she came to the conclusion that the best way was to hearken back to King’s famous “I Have a Dream,” speech, and she proceeded to give a fiery speech composed of excerpts of King’s well-known words.

Afterwards, Tydreik Perkins, 9, said it was important to live out King’s message.

“He made freedom, and he gave out love to everybody,” Perkins said.

Jamara Smith, 9, said the message of racial equality and reconciliation King taught was an important one.

“He helped whites and blacks be together,” she said.

The federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is Monday.