COLUMBIA — MU Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton started Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a challenge to Columbia residents: help Columbia become the kind of community that would make Martin Luther King Jr. proud.
He stressed three values: fairness, justice and equality. "I want to take this opportunity to recommit the university to making this that kind of community," he said.
Middleton addressed a crowd of about 100 people at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at Battle Gardens. A police motorcade led participants from Battle Gardens to the Second Missionary Baptist Church, where the celebration continued.
Several events around Columbia celebrated King's life and legacy. The themes of the day were mostly questions, such as "How did we get to here?" and "Where do we go from here?"
The Rev. Raymond Hayes, a pastor at St. Luke United Methodist Church, was honored for his contributions to the community and for promoting justice and equality.
Mary Ratliff, president of the Columbia NAACP, presented Hayes with the Dr. Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award during Monday's events.
“He has been a pillar in this community,” Ratliff said.
Hayes said that he was sweeping floors and putting up chairs following St. Luke's annual Poor Man's Breakfast on Monday morning when he found out about the award. He was stunned.
"I couldn't drive," he told the audience, after receiving his plaque.
Members of the Columbia community gathered at Douglass High School later in the evening for the annual candlelight walk to St. Luke United Methodist Church.
Before setting out into the cold, the Rev. James Gray reminded attendees that King fought for all human rights.
“We came a long way, but we still have so far to go,” he said.
The crowd, which included Middleton and his wife, as well as city councilmen Ian Thomas and Michael Trapp, sang “We Shall Overcome” as it made its way to the church.
The Rev. Ed Rollins, who is white, spoke about growing up in Washington, D.C., where he was surrounded by diversity. He said it made sense for him to become a part of St. Luke’s annual Martin Luther King celebration.
The service was a reflection on the progress yet to be made to secure equal justice for all.
“The struggle has changed,” said Bill Thompson, co-director of the Columbia chapter of the Martin Luther King Memorial Association.
“It’s not what we can do about the young people; it’s what we can do with the young people,” Thompson said.