Memorial to honor Parks, King planned for Sunday

Friday, February 24, 2006

Community members will pay tribute to the first lady and mother of the Civil Rights movement -- Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks -- at 6 p.m. on Sunday at the St. James AME Church in Cape Girardeau.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. citywide celebration committee will play host to the memorial, which will consist of inspirational, musical and oratorical tributes, said Debra Mitchell-Braxton, event organizer.

"We thought it would be very fitting to honor these two women who took time out of their lives to work as advocates for human rights," Mitchell-Braxton said. "I'm hoping this program will plant a seed in women, and other individuals, to continue the work of these two ladies and to help bridge the gap and bring about more equality in the community."

Coretta Scott King was the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and worked to keep his dream and memory alive. For decades she continued her husband's principles fighting poverty, racism and war. King also spearheaded a campaign to establish Dr. King's birthday as the first federal holiday for a black person. She died on Jan. 30 at the age of 78.

Rosa Parks' refusal to give her seat up on a bus to a white passenger sparked a citywide boycott of the bus system by blacks that lasted 381 days. The boycott resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation on city buses. Parks died on Oct. 24, 2005, at the age of 92.

Nine community women -- the Rev. Debbie Thornton, Dr. Loretta Schneider, Elma Staten, Natika Rowles, Nancy Jernigan, Thelma Valley, Judy Pratcher, Connie Bedell and Mitchell-Braxton -- will present tributes.

"We've pulled a diverse group of women together who want to pay tribute to these two women," Mitchell-Braxton said. She said the nine women were chosen to speak because of their engagement in the community.

"These women have a vision and the characteristic of perseverance, which both Rosa and Coretta exemplified," Mitchell-Braxton said.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. citywide celebration committee plans to have other events throughout the year surrounding Dr. King's philosophy. The committee will have programs for area youth promoting non-violence, leadership and motivational issues.

"We just want to promote something positive and continue the Dr. Martin Luther King celebrations throughout the entire year," Mitchell-Braxton said.

335-6611, extension 246

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