Celebrating Dr. King’s birthday: A time to “Lift Every Voice”

Published 1:59 pm Sunday, January 7, 2024

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We are so blessed to live in this time, where divisions of the past are being overcome and we as a community are celebrating “One Natchez.” This upcoming weekend, as our nation commemorates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we as a city will have an opportunity to “Lift Every Voice.”

On Sunday, Jan. 14, at 5 p.m., the City of Natchez, along with the Natchez Festival of Music, will hold our second annual Dr. King Community Celebration at the Historic Beulah Baptist Church, located at 710 B. Street, just across the street from Cathedral School on N. Martin Luther King Jr. St.

Recently added to the National Register of Historic Places, Beulah Baptist Church has been the scene of many notable events, including historic gatherings during our country’s Civil Rights Movement. It is only fitting that our celebration, “Lift Every Voice,” should take place there.

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Our featured artist will be John Christopher Adams, operatic tenor whose voice has been noted for both its power and emotion. Mr. Adams will present an array of spirituals and anthems, such as “Soon I Will be Done,” “Ain’t-A-Dat Good News,” and the ever-powerful “We Shall Overcome,” among many others.

This event promises to be both a reflective and uplifting experience. More than a performance, this will be a journey through the soul-stirring melodies that moved the hearts of our nation during some of its most trying hours.

Also included will be a special tribute to the founders of NAPAC, the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African American Culture and the Natchez Museum of African American History located on Main Street. Seven remarkable ladies, the late Judge Mary Lee Davis-Toles, Josie Gilchrest-Camper, Flora M. Green Terrell, Mary White, Patricia A. Washington, Juanita Jones, and the late Patricia Powers, blazed a trail for a museum that is today celebrated internationally – and we look forward to recognizing each one of them.

A special blessing of the evening will include a performance by my friend Tony Fields, known for his stirring and powerful delivery of some of history’s most famous hymns and ballads. Mr. Fields is known to many as the Director of Music as the historic Zion Chapel AME Church in Natchez, in addition to his service as an alderman in Natchez for two terms and administrator in the Natchez Adams School District.

Our celebration does not end with Sunday’s program. Monday, Jan. 15, we will commemorate a historic occasion at MLK Triangle, across from Zion Chapel, where at 2 p.m. leaders of this historic church will convey ownership of this historic area to the City of Natchez for the purposes of allowing the city to develop a park there. This park, to be known as Revels Plaza, will be dedicated to the memory of the late Reverend Hiram Revels, former United Senator from Mississippi, who was the first man of color to serve in either house of the United States Congress. I can’t wait to take part in this historic event, to be followed by the 2024 Natchez Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade, beginning at 3 p.m. on Broadway, featuring Co-Grand Marshals, Mrs. Leola Harris and Natchez Police Chief Caroline Green.

Natchez – let us embrace this opportunity to come together as One Natchez, and in doing so “Lift Every Voice”. Let us pay tribute to a great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his great work that continues to this day to expand freedom for all. Because Natchez, America, Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.