SIKESTON -- Sikeston residents of all ages and races will gather Monday to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the annual community celebration.
"He had a dream where his children would be not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their hearts. ... We should always try to keep that dream in the forefront of our memories," Michael Harris, co-chair of the King Day Committee, said about King.
This year's theme of Sikeston's annual King Day program, "If I Had A Dream," will begin with a motorcade parade at 11 a.m. (line up at 10:30 a.m.) Monday at the Glory Land Community Building, formerly the Lincoln School. Immediately following, a program will be presented at noon at the Glory Land Community Building.
Harris went on to discuss King's influence in church and policies of the country, such as the Jim Crow laws. These laws, enforced between 1876 and 1965, legalized segregation between blacks and whites.
"Because of Dr. King's activity and nonviolence and just being a prominent force in the community, a lot of those laws were changed," Harris said. "Never before in the history of our country has someone stood for humanitarian rights like this, and Dr. King was the most notable figure so I think this day is very deserving of recognition."
Harris said this year's celebration theme ties in with an essay contest for Sikeston High School students. Students were given the opportunity to put down in words what they would do if they had a dream, he said.
Essay contest winners will be announced at the luncheon and winners will have the opportunity to read their essays. Several banks and some individuals provided savings bonds for the essay contest winners, Harris said.
Harris also noted unlike in previous years, the King Day Committee will be active throughout the year and not just for planning the annual event. The keynote presenter will be Dr. Rotonya McCants Carr, practicing physician at the Ferguson Medical Group.
Harris said the committee is very pleased Carr accepted their invitation to speak at the event.
"We wanted to try and increase exposure for our kids to positive role models, particularly blacks who have been elevated to that level where she's at," Harris said.
A native of Charleston, S.C., Carr received a Bachelor of Arts with honors in biology from Harvard University and then spent a year volunteering in a school health clinic in rural South Africa. She earned a Doctorate of Medicine in 2001 from Cornell University in New York and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in 2004.
Deciding to pursue her interest in providing medical care in under-served communities, Carr chose her first position as an internal medicine physician with Ferguson Medical Group in Sikeston. In 2006, she married Tyree Carr. Outside of her work, Carr is the first vice-chair of Missouri Bootheel Regional Consortium Inc. in Sikeston.
Carr said she is looking forward to participating in this year's celebration. She said she's been refreshing herself with information about King.
"The biggest thing is he was a man of action," Carr said about King. "Even though it was peaceful, he was a man of action. Today there are many things going on in the world, and we are a passive society. We need to become more active in our communities and in the nation and world to affect change."
Harris said he still thinks there's room for racial dialogue in the country.
"I think, in our country, we've made a lot of strides toward racial equality," Harris said. "However, when we look at what's happening on a national scale, often times there's still room for discussion on racial equality."
New Madrid County Family Resource Center will reenact the "March on Washington" at 11 a.m. Monday on Main Street in New Madrid.
Line up begins at 10:30 a.m. at the New Madrid Museum on the levee. Individuals will march from the Museum to the Court House steps with an escort by New Madrid Police Department. King's "I Have a Dream" speech will be recited. New Madrid County Central's JROTC Color Guard will present colors, and Eric Parker will perform the "National Anthem." Prizes will also be given away for those who dress like they did in 1963. A reception will follow at the Family Resource Center.
The celebration of the life and ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at the Bowden Center. A meal will follow the service. The public is invited to attend.