SIKESTON - For many, Monday will be more than a holiday off from school and work. It will be a day of celebration, a time to honor a man whose message still rings loud and clear in the hearts of many.
"I think that it is very important for us to not forget Martin Luther King Jr.," said Michael Harris. "It is not so much the man but the principles that he lived for. The observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day of reflection. Just as we reflect upon and remember significant events associated with other holidays, we should also remember that our country has not existed without its flaws, yet there was some good that came out of the crisis that we were in."
Harris further described the holiday as the one time of year individuals can reflect on the past to prevent loss of the progress that has been made in human rights.
The festivities surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day will begin at 11 a.m. with the annual motorcade parade, starting at St. John Missionary Baptist Church located on the corner of Westgate and North streets and ending at the church. Parade participants are asked to arrive around 10:30 a.m.
At noon a service will be conducted at the church with Donna McCondichie, superintendent of the Southeast Missouri Correctional Center, serving as key note speaker. The event is open to the public and candidates for city council and the R-6 School Board are anticipated to be present.
Harris said he has seen increased interest in the King celebration over the past 13 years that he has served as co-organizer. Last year he reported there were approximately 125 cars in the motorcade parade, while more than 200 individuals attended the service.
The theme this year is "Teach, Live and Promote the American Dream," which Harris said ties in closely with what organizers hope to accomplish from the celebration.
He believes the teaching of values should begin in the home, adding it's something that parents and guardians can't do enough of especially when it comes to race relations.
Harris said what he wants people to remember is that King did not just stand for one group of Americans, but for everyone.
"He brought back to our remembrance the vision that our founding fathers had as they drafted the Constitution for this great country in which we are privileged to live," he said.
But Harris cautioned against separating King and his principles. "I think that the life of Martin Luther King Jr., his principles, and even his death is significant in our country's history. If we try to just celebrate the day without giving consideration to the man and his tragic demise, I think that we will get a watered down version of the significance of just who Martin was. Martin was a person who not only taught how to live but he also lived the life that he talked about. It allows us the opportunity to do an inward search of ourselves and to examine our strengths and short comings in promoting the American dream for all citizens."
Anyone wishing to participate may contact Harris at 472-4119 or Louis Wiggins at 471-5980.