Civil Rights icon James Meredith headlines MLK celebration

James Meredith, regarded as one of the greatest heroes of the Civil Rights era, will headline the multitude of educational and entertaining events for the Coastwide Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, which begins this evening. 

Meredith, longtime activist and educator, will serve as the keynote speaker during the Sunday Inspirational program and is scheduled to participate in the Parade and Battle of the Bands event on Monday, MLK Day.

Meredith, now 85, is internationally renowned for his courageous and successful task of becoming the first black student to enroll and be admitted into the University of Mississippi in October 1962. Meredith’s heroics sparked the historic wave of the integration of public higher education institutions in the Deep South and are considered one of the hallmarks of the Civil Rights Movement.

Meredith also developed at least two deep connections with Dr. King. In his famous “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” written in April 1963, King mentioned Meredith as one of the South’s “real heroes.”

In June 1966, Meredith attempted to conduct a solo march from Memphis to Jackson to protest racism and voter suppression, but was shot by a sniper midway. Dr. King, along with Stokely Carmichael and up to 15,000 other activists, was called on to finish the march, with a recovering Meredith meeting them in Jackson.

The Coastwide MLK Committee will hold several events to commemorate the world-changing accomplishments and sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which included his leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-56 to his famous “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” in April 1963, his electrifying “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in August 1963, and his winning of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

On Nov. 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill that made Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday, to be set around his birthday of Jan. 15. The federal holiday was observed for the first time on Jan. 20, 1986. The City of Biloxi actually observed the occasion earlier, as the federal policy was in the works.

The theme of the 2019 Coastwide MLK Celebration is “BE the Difference.” The list of events is as follows:

Today, 7 p.m.: MLK Gospel Concert, “Aretha Franklin Gospel Tribute.” Greater Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 1028 Denny Ave., Pascagoula. Free and open to the public.

8 p.m.: MLK Fundraiser Old Skool Party; Climb CDC, 1316 30th Ave., Gulfport. Admission: $20.

Saturday, 10 a.m.: The Village Social Justice Symposium,  featuring When Women Talk, Youth Summit and Man 2 Man Summit. University of South Mississippi Gulf Park Campus, Fleming Education Center, 730 East Beach Blvd., Long Beach. Free (registration required).

Sunday, 4 p.m.: Councilman Felix Gines presents Sunday Inspirational with James Meredith.Biloxi Civic Center, 578 Howard Ave., Biloxi. Free and open to the public.

 Monday, 10 a.m.: MLK Parade, Downtown Biloxi.

After parade: MLK Battle of the Bands, MGM Park, 105 Caillavet St., Biloxi. Admission: $5.
City Desk: Hear more about the MLK celebration
Visit the Coastwide MLK website
See the overall weekend entertainment preview 
Weekend forecast: Showers Saturday; clear Sunday and MLK Day


News & notes: Council, MLK Day, traffic

City Council: The City Council is not scheduled to meet next week. Instead, Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich will be delivering the State of the City presentation during a Biloxi Bay Chamber luncheon Tuesday. 

MLK Day: Non-emergency municipal offices in Biloxi will be closed Monday in observance of MLK Day.

Traffic: See the latest on road work and traffic throughout the city in Traffic Update, published online each day by the city’s Engineering Department. To see the update, along with links to MDOT traffic cameras and Gulf Regional Planning Commission traffic counts, click here.