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MLK Day celebrated in Luverne

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who led a non-violent liberation movement against an often-highly violent opposition, cannot be overstated.

Each year since 1986, January 20 has been observed as a day to remember the slain civil rights leader.

Crenshaw County had its very own celebration this year courtesy of the county NAACP.

Hosted by the St. John Missionary Baptist Church, the annual day-of celebration this year was preceded by a gospel festival at Sweet Water Missionary Baptist Church in Highland Home last Saturday.

Monday’s event consisted of music, speeches, and remembrances of King and how the civil rights struggle manifested in Crenshaw County.

Crenshaw County NAACP President Lisa Brown led the event, beginning by introducing St. John deacons Brian Reed and Samuel Stough for a devotion to begin the event. The St. John MB choir provided music, ranging from gospel songs to songs associated with the civil rights movement.

Speeches included “The Legacy and Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Chancellor Grable, a reading of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Leon Cowart and a keynote address by St. John Rev. James Taylor.

One particularly poignant moment, which is done each year, is the “Recognition of the Ten,” “The Ten” being the honorific title to the ten black students who first entered Luverne High School in 1965, years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that state laws establishing segregation in public schools are unconstitutional.

This year, Bennie McDonald told the story of “The Ten” and read each of their names during the celebration.

One of the former students, Shirley McGhee, was on hand at the celebration and, fighting back tears, related her experiences at the time.

“We were treated so differently… some students would be kind to us, but they couldn’t because they would be shunned, so we just sat by ourselves. Today, I don’t hate those people, those were just the times we lived in. My parents taught me not to hate. My heart could have been hardened, but it wasn’t,” McGhee said.