Celebration held in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“The third Monday in January must be viewed as more than a day off. It must serve as a day that not only remembers the dream and the dreamer, but as a day to honor, commemorate and value the struggle that will add to the greatness of this nation.”
Those words were spoken by keynote speaker Dr. Larry T. Barnett Sr. at the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration event, hosted by the Alexander/Pulaski Counties branch of the NAACP.
The event was held Monday, Jan. 18, in observance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In years past, the celebration was a breakfast banquet event. But due to COVID-19 concerns, the event was held virtually on the Zoom teleconferencing platform.
The event was organized and hosted by chapter secretary Sarita Sawyer and emceed by motivational speaker Jeff McGoy.
Entertainment for the event was provided by author and spoken-word poet Samuel Hawkins.
Additional musical performances included a rendition of the Negro National Anthem by Jamaal Jones and Nyasha Howard, as well as a violin performance of “We Shall Overcome” by Lyric Houston.
Chapter president Tyrone Coleman announced the winners of the minority-owned business of the year for 2020.
Two businesses shared the honor this year: George Moss of Moss Heating and Cooling in Cairo and Max Russell of Russell Heating and Cooling in Metropolis.
An award for education was also given to Dr. Stacey Grundy who earned her Ph.D. in the field of public health.
Coleman also gave recognition to the Laborers’ International Local 773 and four area churches for their food distribution efforts during the pandemic.
The churches involved were Bethel Temple COGIC in Mounds, First Missionary Baptist Church 21st in Cairo, First Missionary Baptist Church 37th in Cairo, and St. John Praise & Worship Center in Pulaski.
Regional politicians and community leaders were on hand to speak about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how his message continues to resonate today.
State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, and State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, were both in attendance for the event, as was Jim Kirkpatrick, a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.
“Today we honor one of the most memorable activists and leaders in the civil rights movement and celebrate the courage he demonstrated in the face of diversity in his quest for equal rights for all,” Fowler said.
Shawnee Community College president Dr. Tim Taylor discussed the importance of education in the goal of equality for all.
“Dr. King understood that education was the best way for people to change their lives and lifestyles,” Taylor said.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Larry T. Barnett Sr., is the senior pastor at St. John Praise & Worship Center in Pulaski, as well as a published author and retired teacher and school administrator.
The theme of Dr. Barnett’s speech was “The Struggle Continues,” which focused on the importance of continuing the fight for equality that Dr. King’s legacy was built upon.
“While the libraries are filled with books regarding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and people around the world will have events such as this,” said Dr. Barnett.
“It is critical, it is imperative, it is crucial that we are not lulled into a false sense of security regarding the necessity to continue in the struggle to remind this nation of ours that it must yet live up to the mantra of its own declaration of independence.”
“This struggle must yet continue as long as there remain those who believe they are entitled to certain rights and privileges at the expense of those who may be less fortunate than themselves,” Dr. Bennett continued.
“The struggle is not over as long as there are those who must suffer the indignity, cruelty, and unusual punishment such as was visited upon George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
“The success of this nation, whether realized or not has never been contingent upon the success and advancement of a few while disenfranchising and marginalizing millions of others who have also shared in the construction and security of this republic.
“Our struggle to be treated as equal stakeholders in this society and to be treated with the same rights, privileges, freedoms, and justice must continue.”
For more information about the Alexander/Pulaski Counties branch of the NAACP, contact chapter president Tyrone Coleman at 270-366-2014 or chapter secretary Sarita Sawyer at 618-306-2324.