By Emanuel D. Williams
The city of Jackson and Hinds County unite every year for a plethora of fun-filled and meaningful activities during the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Weekend. One long-standing tradition has been occurring since 1991, just shy of a decade after President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law.
That year, the late Senator Alice Harden and other community members, including Dr. Aaron Shirley, led the charge to start the Hinds County Legislators MLK Prayer Breakfast. The prayer breakfast was held initially at the Masonic Temple, and as it grew it moved to Amazing Institutional C.O.G.I.C. and then to Greater Bethlehem Temple Church in West Jackson. Rep. Earle Banks led the charge when Senator Harden fell ill and has been organizing the breakfast ever since.
“It’s been a wonderful turnout this morning for the community, for the village, to come and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Rep. Banks of this year’s celebration. “People got a chance to interact and see each other and celebrate. We have come together to reaffirm each other. It’s like a revival.”
The audience of more than 300 communed together at New Horizon International Church, located at 1750 Ellis Avenue. This was the first year that the event has been held in-person since the pandemic, and it is also the first time it has been held at the community staple, which is pastored by Bishop Ronnie Crudup. Bishop Crudup mentioned during the program that he would not be opposed to having it at New Horizon in the future.
Rep. Ronnie Crudup Jr., son of Bishop Crudup, stated, “We had a lot of elected officials from the mayor to the sheriff in attendance. It was a great day to celebrate Martin Luther King.” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba was present to give greetings to the legislators and community.
Various community organizations supported this year’s festivities. As Dr. King was a member of the first Black fraternity – Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. – it was no surprise that members of the Divine Nine were there to represent. As a fraternity brother of Alpha Phi Alpha, Ward 4 Councilman Brian Grizzell noted, “Brother Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for peace and justice in our communities… and the freedoms that many take for granted today. We must be intentional about continuing that very fight as we work to bring about positive social change.”
The program was jam-packed with relevant celebratory elements including a standout performance from Montage Theater of Dance, which is directed by Tiffany Jefferson. Additionally, legislators led prayers for the city, state, nation, youth, peace, families, unity, future, and military. Those who led prayers were senators David Blount, Sollie Norwood, and John Horhn and representatives William “Bo” Brown and Stephanie Foster.
Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Brandon Presley was also in attendance. He spoke of the life and legacy of Dr. King. “One of the ways we live out Dr. King’s legacy today is by being concerned about the least of those. We should call out injustices,” he expressed. Specifically, he directed his comments about the need for calling out injustices to the recent TANF embezzlement case and emphasized not allowing the political issues to prevent justice.
The program was sponsored by BankPlus, Entergy, American Medical Response, Magnolia Health, Waterview Casino, and Ebony Pearls Foundation. Community partners included Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance; NAACP Jackson Branch; Jackson Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Beta Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; CAP, Inc.; Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee; the Clay Firm; the Mary Church Terrell Literary Club; and Mu Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
As another MLK Day passes, Representative Zakiya Summers imparted the importance of keeping King’s legacy alive year round. “We honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his unwavering work to secure civil rights for Black people. He sacrificed his life so that the nation could move toward progress,” she stated. “The Hinds County Legislative Delegation is eternally thankful to Dr. King and his service. Today’s breakfast is our public showing of our gratitude and also an opportunity to collectively pray for our city, state, country, families, military, youth, and for peace. Each of us are servant leaders, and we will continue to fight the war on injustice in order to lift Mississippi to higher heights.”