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Officials and community activists attend a MLK Community Development Corporation Scholarship Banquet. MLK CDC Chairman Jerry James, is pictured with program participants.

The MLK CDC is continuing to work to keep the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive with its annual celebration of the life and legacy of this Civil Rights Leader.

The local group has worked to keep the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive even during this Pandemic.

The MLK CDC sponsors its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration during the month of January of each year to encourage and educate residents about Dr. King’s life and struggles.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. employed strategies of moral persuasion and non-violent protest to bring about social justice for African Americans during the modern civil rights movement.

Rev. Jerry James, chairman of the MLK CDC, said the local committee each year plan a series of events to involve the community and residents of all ages in recognizing the achievements of this great civil rights leader while also encouraging residents to participate in their community and their future.

Due to the COVID-19 virus, the group had to make some modifications for its activities during the 2021 and 2022 celebrations. However, efforts have been made to conducts its Annual 5K Walk/Run, which was initiated in 2022 to allow the community to remember the contributions and impact Dr. King made during his lifetime.

The 5K Walk/Run will be held at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the Sawmill Square Mall in Laurel. The on-site registration will begin at 7 a.m. with the event to begin at 8 a.m. All groups, clubs and individuals are encouraged to come out and take part in the event.

The MLK Community Development Corporation’s Annual Scholarship Banquet, which has been conducted over the years, has been an evening of celebration and awareness that showcased the young people and the MLK CDC’s Annual Prayer Breakfast has been a time of prayer and focusing on community togetherness. This year, the group will combine the activities and allow the young people to be showcased during its Annual Prayer Breakfast/Scholarship Event that will be held at 8 a.m. on Monday, Dr. King National Holiday, at the Sanderson Farms Headquarters on Flynt Road.

Bishop Stafford J.N. Wicker will be the keynote speaker at this year’s event, which will focus on making people aware of the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while encouraging residents to get up and become involved in the improvements of the community.

The theme for this year is “The Color of Unity.”

The event will include youth presentations, speeches about unity and working together and live music and entertainment.

Throughout the years, the group has obtained prominent speakers for this important occasion that also includes the showcasing of young talented students from within the community. Among the previous keynote speakers for this event are Mississippi Supreme Court Judge Leslie King, former Hattiesburg Superintendent James Bacchus and Forrest County Justice Court Judge Gay Polk-Payton, Former Hattiesburg Mayor and state candidate Johnny Dupree and the Jefferson Davis County Justice Court Judge Ronald “Ronnie” Barnes.

Former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree, who served as Hattiesburg’s mayor for more than 16 years has also attended several of the annual events. In 2011, DuPree became the first African-American to represent a major party as a candidate for Governor of Mississippi since the Reconstruction era.

State Rep. Omeria Scott also speaks on the program each year and updates the audience on things going on around the state. Former councilwoman Lula Cooley also takes part in the annual celebration.

Live music for the events have been provided by then Laurel Middle School Band Director Andre Newell, who performed a series of songs on the keyboard, Auburn University Grad Student and Alcorn State University Graduate Jerry James II, who provided a medley of music on the keyboard while Percussionist Jerry Booth, who provided sound on the drums; along with a variety of soloists.

This year’s speaker at the Prayer Breakfast/Scholarship Event will be the Right Reverend Stafford J.N. Wicker, the Presiding Bishop of the Eighth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (which consists of the AME Churches in the states of Mississippi and Louisiana).

James said the MLK CDC is encouraging all residents to participate in its activities. The celebration events will start with the 5K Walk/Run on Saturday. Then, this year’s Annual Memorial Service on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023 at 6 p.m. at Morning Star M.B. Church of Laurel. To climax the series of activities, the committee will conduct its annual Payer Breakfast/Scholarship Event at the Sanderson Farms Headquarters at 127 Flynt Road in Laurel, MS at 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, Dr. King National Holiday.

Anyone needing more information concerning the list of events being sponsored by the MLK CDC can contact any member of the committee or call Rev. Jerry James Sr. at 601-480-1954.