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LOU community to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with Day of Service

OXFORD, Miss. – The Oxford community is commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a variety of special events, including service opportunities and a candlelight vigil.

One of the biggest events is the Lafayette-Oxford-University MLK Day of Service, organized in conjunction with the university, RSVP Oxford, North Mississippi VISTA project and other community partners.

Arledia Bennett, of RSVP Oxford, says more than 100 people are expected to attend the events on Monday.

“Last year, we lined the walls at the Belfry and had standing room only,” Bennett said. “We expect to see that number this year. I truly feel that we have a part of the event that will suit everyone’s tastes, and hopefully, will teach them something new.”

The LOU MLK Day of Service will begin on Monday at 8:30 a.m. at Second Baptist Church with a community breakfast before the opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. at Burns Belfry Museum. The ceremony will include keynote speaker Rev. C.J. Rhodes, son of civil rights attorney Carroll Rhodes, Sr. and the 23rd and youngest pastor of Jackson’s oldest African-American church.

During the program, volunteers will have a children’s area, where kids can listen to recordings of oral histories that illustrate what life was like for north Mississippians during the civil rights era outside the museum.

Following the keynote address, awards will be presented to outstanding LOU volunteers in five categories: a community member and one student apiece from the Oxford School District, the Lafayette County School District and the university. All recipients are to be announced at the ceremony.

“We had several meetings leading up to it. This past Tuesday, we sat down as a committee, and we looked at all the submissions and chose who deserved the awards,” Davis said. “There are five awards, representing people from Oxford, Lafayette, University, community at-large and in memoriam.”

The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation is hosting a screening of the film “Long Walk Home” as well. The film, which will be shown at 1:30 p.m. at Burns Belfry, is about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and features Cissy Spacek and Whoopi Goldberg. Following the film, professor Kiese Laymon will lead a discussion session.

Throughout the day, members of the LOU community will have the opportunity to give back to the community. A food drive will be held for Abundant Truth Salt and Light Ministry in Taylor. The day will end with a community give-back benefiting the Exchange Club Family Center from 4 to 9 p.m. at Chili’s Bar & Grill.

“If you go to Chili’s, be sure to mention you’re there for Give-Back Night,” Bennett said. “It’ll be a fun way to end the day and donate to your community while you’re at it.”

Another event commemorating MLK Day is the 33rd-annual Oxford-Lafayette Candlelight Vigil and March, presented by Omega Psi Phi fraternity. The event will start at 6:15 p.m. at Second Baptist Church, where attendees will then march around the Square in a time of remembrance and celebration of King’s legacy. Jerone Smith, of Omega Psi Phi, says the fraternity hopes to bring the community close together.

“We invited all the preachers around the Square to attend, black and white, and extend that invitation into the community,” Smith said. “One of the most segregated times is Sundays at church, but it doesn’t have to be that way on MLK Day or any other day.”

After the march and vigil, there will be a program honoring the legacy of Dr. King featuring Rev. Brian Davis, Pastor of Christ Temple CME, along with a musical celebration of LOVE featuring the CT Experience. There will also be an awards ceremony honoring members of the community who have kept King’s legacy alive through their charitable actions. This year’s recipients of the “Keeping the Dream Alive Award” are Laveria Hodges of L. Hodges Funeral Services and the Wise Women Group of Oxford, Mississippi.

“This year, we chose award recipients who are independent women,” Smith said. “They’ve shown Dr. King’s legacy through giving their time and doing all they can to help others.”

Both the organizers of the march and MLK Day of Service make one thing clear – all members of the community are invited to keep King’s legacy alive, on MLK Day and throughout the year.

“This is about community,” Davis said. “It’s about Dr. King, but it’s about what you can do to continue his legacy every day.”