By Woodrow Polston
Kicking off the Mexico area’s 36th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration, a group of participants met at the First Presbyterian Church at 9:30 a.m. for a prayer breakfast. At 11:30 a.m., a crowd gathered at the Mexico United Methodist Church to organize a march to the Audrain County Courthouse located at 101 N. Jefferson Street. Upon reaching the courthouse, the crowd gathered inside the rotunda, where a large group was already assembled for the noon service.
An opening selection was performed by Minister Rachel Owens, who led with “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on keyboards. Following, the Master of Ceremony Austin Miller, invited Rev. Zane Whorton of First Christian Church for a scripture reading. Other selections were performed by the Mexico Senior High School. A prayer was offered by Rev. Dr. Susan Presley of First Presbyterian Church, and a presentation followed by several Mexico middle school students. Numerous speakers discussed the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including Mexico City Mayor Chris Miller, Mexico Public School Superintendent Melissa Chastain, Mexico Chamber of Commerce President Melanie Utterback, and Audrain County Presiding Commissioner Alan Winders.
“I love this building and cannot think of a better place to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday,” said Winders. “There are approximately 13 federal holidays that we recognize. And two of those are birthdays. One is the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ which we celebrate on Christmas Day, and the other is Martin Luther King’s birthday. Now why is that do you suppose? Well, I believe it is because the message that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered to us, was so clear, so morally right and timely. And it was also timeless. It serves as a reminder to us, of the promises of our Constitution,” he added.
The keynote speaker, Bishop Sylvester Williams Sr., was introduced by Jaye Jackson. Williams was raised in Hale County, Ala., where his spiritual journey began pastoral leadership. On Jun. 30, 2010, Williams was elected the 58th bishop of the CME Church and was assigned as the leader of the Second Episcopal District. In July 2014, Williams was assigned as the Presiding Prelate of the Third Episcopal District.
“If we fail to keep the dream alive, if we fail to pass it on from generation to generation, then it will only be a passing thought,” said Williams. “Shifting priorities to create the beloved community starts with me. I make no apologies for sharing with you from the depths of my soul. If we are to say that it starts with us, is that something that we are just saying, or is it something that we mean? What does the beloved community really look like? It looks like a passage of scripture. It looks like Luke Chapter 10, in the parable of the good Samaritan,” added Williams.
Now approaching four decades, the Mexico MLK committee has held an annual event in honor of the civil rights leader, and to provide an opportunity for residents to take part in the celebration.
“It Starts With Me; Shifting Priorities to Create the Beloved Community,” was the theme of this year’s event. The aim was to encourage an effort on everyone’s part, to help create the beloved community. The activities at the courthouse ended shortly after 1 p.m. with a closing prayer that was given by Rev Dr. Susan Presley.