Celebration honors women's efforts in civil rights movement

Monday, March 21, 2011
Gwen McGee sings "I'm Still Holding On" during the Rosa L. Parks and Coretta Scott King Memorial Tribute Sunday at St. James AME Church in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee hoped to inspire leadership in a small congregation gathered at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church on Sunday by highlighting the lives of two black civil rights activists, the late Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King.

Several speakers, singers and dancers were part of the sixth annual Memorial Tribute, which committee director Debra Mitchell-Braxton said is to recognize Women's History Month and to bring Parks' and King's legacy to life.

"Rosa Parks was the 'mother' of the civil rights movement and Coretta King was the 'first lady,'" Mitchell-Braxton said. "What we're trying to do is keep the dreams of these two women alive. You have to have leaders; we need more leaders in our community."

The congregation's singers performed a gospel song, "I'm Still Holding On," about keeping God close in order to deal with struggles.

"When I first heard it I was going through a lot," choir member Gwen McGee said. "But, these last 20 years have been good."

Speakers highlighted the women's accomplishments, among them fighting for peace and resisting racial segregation, and youth from House of Prayer performed a play focusing on the history of the African-American culture and the importance of God in its history.

Geneva Allen, a member of St. James, called the women "she-roes" who fought for the rights black Americans and women have today. Both women were Christians and both fought for equality, she said.

"Thanks to God that they were both trailblazers," she said.

She encouraged the crowd gathered for the celebration to live a little like Parks and King each day, to be leaders.

"Don't be bent out of shape over traditions. You will be challenged," Allen said. "Because God lived, we can face tomorrow."

ehevern@semissourian.com

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