Columbia celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy

Monday, January 16, 2012 | 8:31 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Second Missionary Baptist Church's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration honored three Columbia residents for their achievements in community involvement and activism.

The celebration's theme was “Reaffirming a Legacy of Hope” and it began at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial site at Stadium Boulevard. Pamela Hardin, first vice president of the Columbia branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, thanked everyone who participated and paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

“Let’s make this day a day that Dr. King should be proud of,” Hardin said.

A motorcade then led participants to the church for a continued celebration and community service awards. A complimentary spaghetti luncheon followed.

“We are here today to celebrate a legacy of hope,” said the Rev. Linda Dodd, secretary of the Columbia NAACP. “What is your role in that legacy of hope?”

George Farris, the Rev. James Gray and Lisa Warren were presented awards for their involvement in the community, helping others and embracing the vision that Martin Luther King had for society, said Columbia NAACP President Mary Ratliff.

Farris received the Trailblazer award for his dedication to civil rights. Farris knew King personally and had close connections with King’s family.

“People don’t have to do anything for you,” Farris said. “For me, I didn’t expect this.”

Hardin described Gray as a man who would give you the shirt off his back.

“You all inspire me to do more,” Gray said. “You all keep motivating me.”

Warren, the executive director of the Missouri State Human Rights Commission, spoke about her work for equal human rights at the Missouri legislature.

Pat Tatum and Donald Hill have been coming to the celebration since it began. Hill said the event is important because it emphasizes equal rights and equal opportunities for everyone.

After the awards, Hardin introduced the Rev. Starsky Wilson, a pastor at Saint John’s United Church of Christ in St. Louis, who spoke about advancing a culture of hope. He emphasized the importance of not looking to the past for hope, but into the future, which lies in our children.

“The children are the living and breathing representation of any and all hope,” Wilson said.

Toni Thomas and Joi Irving came from St. Louis to hear Wilson, their pastor, speak about equality, the future of the country's children and looking to the future for hope.

Toni Thomas, 12, said she wants everyone’s future to change for the better. She said she enjoyed listening to Wilson speak about changing the status quo and improving the way children are treated and educated.

At the end of the event, a diverse group of people came together to enjoy a meal under a banner reading “Legacy of Hope.”

“We can never forget where we came from and who we are,” Ratliff said.

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