Kayla Gilmore, pictured at a 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Starkville, will take part in a music and spoken word open mic at 7 p.m. Jan. 16 at the Columbus Arts Council. Photo by: Olin Perry Norton/Courtesy photo
January 6, 2018 10:02:45 PM
Golden Triangle counties are gearing up for Martin Luther King Day Jr. Day, annually observed on the third Monday of January. Columbus, Starkville and West Point have events planned for Jan. 15. Additional events are also scheduled in Columbus Jan. 16.
A collaboration brings a commemoration of King to Trotter Convention Center in downtown Columbus Jan. 15.
A free 8 a.m. breakfast is open to the public, as long as space permits.
David L. Beckley, president of Rust College, will deliver the keynote address. Beckley is a graduate of Rust College and the University of Mississippi. He is the longest-tenured senior college president in Mississippi.
The event is presented by a partnership that includes the City of Columbus, the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mississippi University for Women and Sodexo Food Services, among other sponsors.
Also in Columbus
On Tuesday, Jan. 16, the Columbus Arts Council's Rosenzweig Arts Center at 501 Main St. will be the site of two events.
AmeriCorps VISTA and the arts council will host a free Community Health and Wellness Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants can get health screenings, healthy snacks, on-site instructors of yogaflex, pilates and more, as well as information on local nonprofit agencies.
"As part of the Columbus Arts Council's AmeriCorps Health Initiative Program, the fair is an educational and interactive event designed for outreach to provide medical screening to people in the community," said CAC Executive Director Lynn Brown.
At 7 p.m. the same date, poets and performers present a 7 p.m. music and spoken word open mic at the arts center. Those interested in performing are invited to sign up by contacting Beverly Norris at 662-328-2787.
Brown said, "Word-based performance art can take you on cerebral vacations and mind excavations, dig that. Artists use wordplay and voice inflection to portray their words in a new and enthralling way. Words have power and can touch people in meaningful ways, just as Martin Luther King Jr. did with his 'I have a dream' speech."
At the open mic, Kayla Gilmore of Starkville will premiere an original dance to the song "Strange Fruit," made famous by Billie Holiday.
"It was a poem that protests the struggles of racism in the 1930s ... " said Gilmore. "I would like to step out and educate others about how the past has helped unite people and move forward together, regardless of differences. Let's live more and love more."
Its vital to pay homage to a man who helped pave the way for many, and for her career, Gilmore added.
"Without his fight and willingness to help change the world, I would not be able to perform at certain venues because of the color of my skin."
To sign up for the open mic, or for more about the health fair, contact the CAC, 662-328-2787. Open mic tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.
On Monday, Jan 15, Mississippi State University will host the 24th annual Unity Breakfast at 8 a.m. at The Mill located at 600 Russell St. A 9 a.m. program follows featuring former Rep. Tyrone Ellis, recently retired after serving Mississippi's District 38 for 38 years in the Mississippi House of Representatives.
Doors open at 7:30 a.m.; seating is first-come, first-served. At the conclusion of the program, participants are encouraged to take part in a Day of Service at nonprofits in the community from 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Transportation to sites will be provided after the Unity Breakfast.
Volunteers are asked to register in advance at mlkdaystarkville.com or call 662-325-2150 or 62-617-8162.
AmeriCorps VISTA Kauthar Gaber at Volunteer Starkville said, "We have a wide range of opportunities. We're really proud of this event. Last year, we had about 500 volunteers, which is really exciting. This year, we hope to get as many, if not more."
At 1:30 p.m., the Oktibbeha County NAACP hosts an annual march and rally starting at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Douglas L. Conner Drive. A program follows at Unity Park on Douglas L. Conner Drive. These events are free to the public.
In West Point
West Point's annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration will begin at 9 a.m. Jan. 15 when an assembly of marchers departs from a parking lot at East Half Mile Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Street. The procession will end at Central School Center Stage on Westbrook Street for a program at 10 a.m. with Rev. Raphael Terry, pastor of Davidson Chapel CME Church in West Point and Bigbee Valley CME Church in Brooksville.
In the event of bad weather, the march will be replaced with a motorcade to Central School.
All communities, churches, organizations and clubs are encouraged to bring banners and join the march.
"The Rev. Terry is a dynamic young man able to connect with young people and inspire young minds," said event coordinator Anna Jones, who has helped organize the commemoration for about 30 years.
"Community response is awesome. We have people coming from about a 50-mile radius," Jones continued. "We hope everybody will come out and follow on with this tradition and celebrate Dr. King and what he worked for."
The West Point celebration is sponsored by Davidson Chapel CME Church.
For more information, contact Jones at 662-494-1024 or 662-494-1173.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.