Cape Girardeau marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Salvation Army members hold candles in remembrance of victims of violence during the 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast Monday, Jan. 21, at the Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau. Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day which is held on the third Monday in January in remembrance of the slain civil rights leader's birthday which is January 15. (ADAM VOGLER)

Urging the community to "reflect and come together," Cape Girardeau's mayor kicked off the 28th year of the city's celebration commemorating the legacy of one of the country's most influential figures.

The life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were honored with events at the Salvation Army on Monday, marking what would have been the slain civil-rights leader's 84th birthday.

Two of the events, the 28th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast and the 12th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Luncheon, brought together a large audience.

"The remembrance of Martin Luther King is important," said Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger before the breakfast. "It's a time for our community to reflect and come together."

The keynote speaker for the breakfast was the Rev. Rodney Moody, pastor of St. James AME Church, who said people everywhere needed to share their blessings with those less fortunate.

"It's what not only Dr. King taught us to do, but also Jesus Christ," Moody said. "Too often we see someone in need, yet sometimes while we're even on our way to church we don't stop to help that person."

Moody said King would not be pleased with how a segment of African-American children are living.

"We've watched our children become trapped in violence," he said. "Instead of seeking nonviolent solutions to their problems, they are settling matters with guns. This is something we must all work to stop."

Moody closed his speech by reminding the audience that while King understood many people want to be important, he had a simple way for them to become that way.

"Dr. King said anyone can be great because anyone can serve," he said. "That's how you become important, by giving back to the community."

The humanitarian luncheon began at noon after a brief prayer service for America's leaders. The Rev. Joseph Cotton Jr., pastor of New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and keynote speaker, spoke of finding the compassion that has been lost since King's time.

"As we see the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, we wonder if there's any compassion anymore," Cotton said. "What happened to us? We used to care when we saw a family in need."

Cotton said King wanted people not just to observe, but to do something for someone.

"It doesn't cost you anything to be nice," Cotton added. "Help that person."

Like Moody, Cotton bemoaned how some African-American children have turned to violence.

"We must remove the culture of violence that surrounds them," he said. "To do that, we must do what Rosa Parks did: stand up for justice."

Five people, Calvin and Denza Mitchell, Jerry and Minnie Hammonds and Genieve Dockery, received the Dr. C. John Ritter Humanitarian Award, named for a now-deceased local doctor who was committed to humanitarian causes.

Calvin and Denza Mitchell received awards for serving their church and opening their hearts to the community with backyard events for children and fashion shows to raise money for various causes.

Rev. Clarence Dockery Jr. walks Genevieve Dockery to the stage after she was named a recipient of the Dr. C. John Ritter Humanitarian Award during the 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Luncheon Monday, Jan. 21, at the Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau. Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day which is held on the third Monday in January in remembrance of the slain civil rights leader's birthday which is January 15. (ADAM VOGLER)

"We're surprised, but we feel good about winning," said Calvin Mitchell. "We're going to keep on doing right."

Jerry Hammonds said his award was one of the biggest surprises of his life. His wife Minnie added that what they do, working with children, doesn't often get them noticed.

"It's not something a lot of people know about," she said. "But being recognized in this way makes us want to do more for kids."

Dockery, a woman of strong Christian faith who serves as a mentor to her neighbors, said she wasn't sure if she deserved her award. "What I do is an everyday thing," she said, "but I thank God for my award. I'll keep on doing my best."

Debra Mitchell-Braxton, chairwoman of the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King City-Wide Celebration Committee that organized the events, said the African-American community can't afford to go backward.

"We have to keep Dr. King's dream alive," Mitchell-Braxton said. "These events teach kids respect for their history, and we can move forward with that. We must not let ourselves get turned around."

Major Ben Stillwell, corps officer of the local Salvation Army, said hosting the celebration of King's legacy was an honor and a privilege.

"It was inspiring," Stillwell said. "We'd be honored to do it again next year."

The Southeast Missourian was a co-sponsor of the events honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which began Thursday and ended Monday afternoon with the 17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Gala at West Park Mall.

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

701 Good Hope St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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