Annual MLK celebration yields awards, reflections

Marlo Turner, left, Cedric Gathings and the Hon. Sumeka Thomas visit before the MLK Celebration at MCC gets underway Thursday. Thomas served as keynote speaker for the program. 

Reflecting on the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Hon. Sumeka C. Thomas stressed the importance of speaking up in times of injustice when she presented the keynote address at Meridian Community College’s MLK Celebration program.

The program was held in the College’s McCain Theater, with campus and community residents attending. Thomas, the first African American female judge in Okolona and Verona and the first African American to be appointed Youth Court Judge for Chickasaw County, explored the celebration’s theme, “Don’t Be Silent About What Is Important.” 

“If we truly want to live out Dr. King’s legacy and truly want to fulfill his dream, which was equality for all, then we must decide for ourselves about what we think is important… what will it take for us not to be silent?”

Silence, she said, in the face of oppression is simply silence. “Dr. King said history will remember those who stood idly by and watched people being mistreated and did nothing to try to stop it.”

She added, “Silence for Dr. King was not an option for him.”

The program also recognized the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Creative Contest high school and college winners, including high school students Mya Shook, first; Jamarcus Towner, second, and Dankira Holliday, third, and college students Alexsandra Rangel, first, Ashley Pinion, second, and Jacob Vance, third.

MCC students Lakeesha McFarland, Emily Smith, and Tina Dukes were applauded as recipients of the Charles L. and Doretha Young Family Scholarship. The Hon. Vel Young, representing her family in the on-stage presentation, urged students to forge ahead and “education is what’s going to get us where we need to be.”

Melba Clark-Payne, business owner, community and civic leader, and retired educator received the Billy C. Beal Award. Remembering Beal and his long-time work as the College’s librarian, Clark-Payne said she was honored to be recognized. She, in turn, donated two books to the College’s library, one of a collection of Clark-Payne’s works and the other, Your Legacy.

To watch the ceremony, visit

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