Learnard Dickerson, Tony Montgomery and Lavonne Harris deserve a big round of applause, they and all the Dream 365 volunteers who made possible the just completed four-day-long Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
This group of stalwarts put on a series of events that included something for everyone: talent shows, a blues concert, a gospel singing and on Monday morning an awards breakfast where five individuals and one organization were recognized with Dream 365”s prestigious Oasis of Freedom and Justice Award. Eleven unsung heroes received well-deserved recognition, and 14 schoolchildren were recognized for artwork and essays on the theme of Dr. King”s message. The group will hand out scholarships later in the year.
Monday morning, keynote speaker James A. Young did the memory of Dr. King proud. The first black mayor of Philadelphia, Miss., the town best known for the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers, Young shared with the audience the story his humble beginnings: “Who would have thought a black country boy from Philadelphia, Miss., would be standing here.”
Young was introduced by another black country boy who through intelligence and hard work rose to be the first black mayor of his hometown, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith.
A Pentecostal preacher –and a dynamic and entertaining speaker — Young told of his rise from maintenance man at the local hospital when an administrator impressed with his work ethic offered to fund his EMT training. He was eventually promoted to the head of the hospital”s EMT unit. Young was elected county supervisor and mayor in 2009 when he unseated a three-term incumbent.
About Young”s election in May, The Neshoba Democrat said, “Philadelphia will always be connected to what happened here in 1964, but the fact that Philadelphia, Mississippi, with its notorious past, could elect a black man as mayor, it might be time to quit picking on Philadelphia, Mississippi.”
“Give me a level playing field; if I can”t cut it, I can”t cut it,” Young said. “I am a liberal because I think everybody ought to be treated the same; I”m a conservative because I think every man who can ought to work for a living; and I”m an independent because I think for myself.”
We want to thank the Dream 365 team for their efforts. No other group in the area works as hard for racial conciliation and understanding. Dr. King would indeed be proud.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.