The celebration of the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., begins tonight with a black tie banquet at the UFCW Local 1991 Union Hall at 6:30 p.m. The keynote speaker is West Point School District Superintendent Burnell McDonald. There will be a time of remembrance to honor State Representative David Gibbs, State Senator Bennie Turner, Toy Marshall and Rachael Free by Robert Smith. The night will feature wonderful food, the presentation of the Johnnie Pearl Randle Community Service Award, recognitions and words of praise, honor and encouragement from community leaders.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of King’s march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which took place August 28, 1963. King, a Baptist minister and civil rights advocate led the charge for non-violent protests. He fought the war against inequality peacefully with words. The march made specific demands: an end to racial segregation in public schools; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers; and self-government for Washington, D.C., then governed by congressional committee. Despite tensions, the march was a resounding success. It was there that King delivered his “I have a dream” speech for which he is most famous.
“I see a lot of positives since the march, people of color have so many more opportunities than we ever dreamed of during the Civil Rights Movement,” said Bettye Swift, one of the organizers of the MLK banquet. “There have been enormous changes since ‘63. Not only do many African Americans hold high positions in their own communities, but to have an African American in the White House is a huge accomplishment.”
Swift was one of the people who spearheaded the MKL Black Tie Banquet, but due to a scheduling discrepancy will miss the banquet. But she and her sister Ella Seay, will be representing West Point at the Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C. which coincides with Martin Luther King Day.