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Posted: January 29, 2012 12:00 a.m.

The legacy of Martin Luther King lives on in Social Circle

On the MLK national holiday, my husband and I attended the annual birthday celebration at the Corinth Missionary Baptist Church here in Social Circle. You would need to have been there to witness the enthusiasm and energy expressed in this event. There was dancing, singing, skits and testimonials to honor the life and works of a truly remarkable man. And members of the congregation and guests felt free to express their praise and joy by singing and clapping or lifting their hands in worship of God. I'm sure that if Dr. King were looking down from the heavens, he would be tapping his feet, clapping and having a grand time. For me, participation in this event put me in touch with some people who had direct involvement in the civil rights movement in this area.

A main feature of the celebration was a sermon by The Rev. Trenton Sorrell from Friendship Baptist Church in Social Circle entitled, "Keeping the Dream Alive." His sermon focused on a verse from Amos 5:24 which Dr. King used in his "I Have a Dream" speech: "But let justice role down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." The Rev. Sorrell's sermon mirrored a call for justice that was the subject of Martin Luther King's many speeches and civil rights activities. The need for justice was a major theme of his sermon, reminding attendees and guests that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

The Rev. Sorrell also quoted English philosopher Edmund Burke who said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." According to the Rev. Bishop Bill Davenport, Corinth Missionary Baptist Church Pastor, "the main thing that sets Martin Luther King apart from most good men is that he did not ‘do nothing' and in the process he changed our world."

Minister Rosie Crowley was another featured speaker who talked about how she worked with Bishop Davenport to establish a celebration at Corinth to honor Dr. King on MLK Day as an annual event. She had become concerned that the history of the civil rights movement and particularly the critical role of Dr. King in leading the way to racial equality in this country might be lost to the present and future generations. She didn't want the MLK national holiday to become just another "day off" - but a day for celebrating and honoring Dr. King as a "man of God." Minister Crowley was 14-years-old during the civil rights marches in the 1960s. She recalled that Dr. King was killed on the very day he was scheduled to fly to Social Circle for a speaking engagement.

Social Circle resident Bobby Howard was also in attendance at the MLK celebration Monday and expressed his view that Dr. King was a man of God who came at a time when he was needed. Mr. Howard is a veteran civil rights leader who, during the 1960's, led marches for justice and equality. In fact, he was in the process of making final arrangements for Dr. King to fly in to the Monroe air strip on the day of his assassination. He recalled that it was after returning to Social Circle from Monroe that day when he learned of Dr. King's tragic death. Bobby Howard has figured prominently in the news recently as a result of his personal quest for justice in the lynching of two black couples at Moore's Ford Bridge.

A group of civil rights activists, political leaders and victim's relatives called the Moore's Ford Memorial Committee, of which Bobby is a member, has been working with the FBI and the GBI who are taking another look at the case and pursuing every lead. The possibility of obtaining a conviction is remote as witnesses and suspects die and those who are left are still reluctant to speak out. Bobby believes that if those involved in this heinous crime are brought to justice if will bring all people together regardless of their race or color.

In speaking with Corinth Church member Tony Tolder, I asked him how MLK had affected his life. He said he learned to value education and to give back to the community, and he tried to live by the moral principles taught by Dr. King.

I later spoke with Ms. Minnie Pearl Wynn who described some of her experiences when she was briefly jailed during one of the voter registration drives in Monroe.

She told about being herded along with the others into a single cell. While there she learned that teenagers were going to be released and, being a very young looking 22-year-old, she claimed to be 17. However, after hearing a rumor that the teenagers would be placed on work detail, she owned up to her actual age and spent the night in jail. In the morning, only those who were able to pay a required amount were allowed to leave. Fortunately for Mrs. Wynn she was one of only three people who had money, so she bought her way out of jail.

I asked Minnie how she felt Martin Luther King had impacted her life. She said that what he accomplished "makes you want to stand up with pride" because of the man he was and his strength in bringing about non-violent change. She "honors his dream" and, even more so, "honors the dreamer." She went on to say, "As a people, we survived slavery and then went on to support equality for all persons, regardless of their color." She believes herself to be a non-violent person with a love for all people regardless of their color.

I was unable to attend the MLK Celebration at the Mars Hill Missionary Baptist Church here in Social Circle, but I heard it was a wonderful event. The program, chaired by Deacon Larry Knox and co-chaired by Brother Roosevelt Nelson, was titled "Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." Mr. Joel Bell, an inspirational speaker from Atlanta, gave a motivational speech specifically directed to young people. It was titled "Be Whatever You Can Be," encouraging kids to get an education, stay in school and learn - a message inspired by Dr. King's life and work. The program also featured musical entertainment by Dashon Hardge and Bryson Watts, a reading of the "I Have a Dream" speech by Sister DeDe DeMarks, and the singing of "We Shall Overcome" led by Sister Chastity Williams.

I have no doubt that Dr. Martin Luther King would be pleased with the way his friends in Social Circle have honored his memory.

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