By Ida Brown
The memory of three murdered Mississippi civil rights' workers in 1964 will be the crux of Meridian's 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday Parade and Celebration.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the murders of James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael "Mickey" Schwerner, who were shot at close range on the night of June 21-22, 1964. The three men had been working on the Freedom Summer campaign, attempting to register African Americans to vote.
"The murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner had a great impact on the civil rights movement and was instrumental in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act," said Greg Lane, chairman of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and Celebration Committee.
"Fifty Years Later: Honoring the Leaders of Today, While Remembering the Warriors and Dreamers of Yesterday," is the theme for this year parade and celebration, which will be held Monday in downtown Meridian.
Festivities will begin at noon with the parade, which will feature local churches, school and youth groups and organizations, school bands as well as social and civic clubs and individuals.
"The parade draws several hundred adults and children to our city's downtown area," Lane said. "A highlight of the parade has been the participation of a band from one of our state's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), as well as our local high school bands."
The Sonic Boom of the South – the marching band at Jackson State University – will mark their third appearance at Meridian's MLK festivities. It is recognized as one of the country's largest HBCU marching bands with more than 250 members.
The deadline for parade entries has been extended to Friday. Funds from entries will help support a scholarship to a HBCU. For more information, contact Lane at (601) 934-5528.
The day's celebration will culminate with a program which, this year, will be held in a new location – the lawn at city hall. Keynote speaker will be Meridian's own Mississippi Rep. Charles L. Young Jr., District 82. Young, who holds the seat once occupied by his late father, Charles L. Young Sr., is a member of five committees and is the primary sponsor of 137 bills. The program will begin at 1 p.m.
Lane encourages attendance and participation in Meridian's MLK Parade and Celebration from all residents of Meridian and surrounding areas.
"After 50 years of the endurance of the civil rights movement – including the Freedom Riders and all the history still engraved in our hearts and minds – it's important that we share this with our children," he said. "The impact of events from that era will always be with those of who lived through it. But it's also important that our children never forget, and that they realize that the dream was not just a dream. It has become a reality."
Other MLK Events
• Friday – Naval Air Station Meridian's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service, 10 a.m. The program will have special music, poetry, scripture readings and more. Colors will be performed by the NJROTC unit from Northeast High School.
The keynote speaker will be Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Johnson, Executive Officer, Naval Technical Training Center Meridian. Johnson enlisted in the Navy's Delayed Entry Program in 1987 and graduated from Recruit Training Command, San Diego, Calif., in 1988. His enlisted assignments include: Basic Enlisted Submarine School and USS Finback (SSN-670), USS Hampton (SSN-767), COMSUBRON Two, and USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723).
• Jan. 19 – Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Candlelight March and Memorial Service. Lineup for the march will begin at 6:30 p.m., at the corner of 16th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (former site of the Baptist Seminary building) and will proceed to historic First Union Missionary Baptist Church, 610 38th Ave. The memorial service will begin at 7 p.m. and will feature the Rev. Gary Houston, pastor of New Hope Blackwater Baptist Church, Daleville, as guest speaker.
• Jan 20 – The 28th Annual NAACP Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, 8 a.m., Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi. Featured speaker: Meridian City Councilman Kim Barney Houston. Theme: "Citizenship and Service in Action." Donation: $7. Sponsored by the Meridian/Lauderdale County Branch, NAACP. For more information, call (601) 485-4021 or (601) 482-1360.
• Jan. 25 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gala, 8 p.m., MSU Riley Center. The gala will feature live entertainment, as well as a sit-down dinner; attire, semi-formal. Tickets are $35 each and may be purchased from any Dr. Martin Luther King Parade and Celebration Committee member.