The United Coalition of Jackson honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at its annual community-wide event on Monday, Jan. 20, at 1:30 p.m. at the Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Jackson.

The theme of the 34th Annual King Holiday Celebration was “The Beloved Community: The Fierce Urgency of NOW.”

Keynote speaker Monroe County District 1 Commissioner Larry Evans recalled King’s life and reminded those in attendance that King’s life may have ended in 1968, but that was when his legacy began. He noted specifically the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bans segregation and the Voting Rights Act which gave blacks the right to vote.

Evans, the husband of longtime Butts County educator Annie Evans, recalled times in his life when he faced segregation and refused to back down. When he was in the ninth grade, there were two water fountains in Evans’ school; one for whites and one for blacks. Evans always drank from the whites’ fountain even when the blacks’ fountain was replaced with a new one that provided ice cold water. He also recalled entering a Monroe County restaurant through the front door and being served in the front of the restaurant instead of the back which was designated for black diners.

“(Dr. King) started the movement and we have to finish it,” Evans said. “He said to have peaceful and non-violent protests. Dr. King came back to the South … he lived a very simple life because he wanted us to be able to do better.”

Evans recalled another time when two Monroe County black women were wrongly arrested for refusing to pay for gasoline when too much was put in their car by the attendant.

“Two hundred people showed up for their trial and their lawyer refused to represent them,” said Evans who stepped up and represented the ladies at the trial. “We brought forth lots of witnesses and demanded that the two policemen be fired. We formed the local NAACP and held a march that was covered by the Macon Telegraph. The two policemen were fired and so was the police chief. This is what came out of a peaceful protest.”

This year’s celebration included music from the Butts County Community Choir, Mendy Nnamuchi of Father’s House Pentecostal Church in Riverdale and Walter Daughtery of St. James Baptist Church in Jackson. A dramatic reading was presented by Joyce Hunter of Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

Fellowship and food sponsored by the Free Masons of Jackson followed the program.

(Editor’s Note: For more photos from the 34th annual King Holiday Celebration, see “Latest Photo Galleries” at myjpa.com.)

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