Plans told for annual MLK celebration, essay contest

Josh Briggs
Managing Editor

Plans for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration and student essay contest have been announced.

This year’s essay topic and celebration theme is “How Long? Not Long.”
During his “Our God is Marching On” speech on March 25, 1965, in Montgomery, Alabama, King praised white clergy and laypeople of various faiths who traveled to Selma to face danger with African-American protesters.

He said segregation is “on its deathbed” and that protesters must be prepared to “march on poverty,” until all Americans have access to decent housing and quality education and where homelessness and low-paying jobs are nonexistent.

Excerpts of focus from King’s speech are “How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever ... How long? Not long, you shall reap what you sow ... How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

During this year’s contest, students are asked to write about how Americans can work together to ensure economic equality for persons of all races.

Essays will be judged by the staff of The Saline Courier. The contest is sponsored by The Ralph Bunche Community Development Corp., the Benton School District, Everett Buick GMC and The Courier.
Participating students must be in the first through 12th grades.

Prizes and other recognition will be awarded to the top writers and include:

•$50 for first place; $40 for second place; and $30 for third place in 10th through 12th grades.

•$35 for first place; $30 for second place; and $20 for third place in eighth through ninth grades.

•$25 for first place; $20 for second place; and $10 for third place in sixth through seventh grades.

•$25 for first place; $20 for second place; and $10 for third place in fourth through fifth grades.

•$15 for first place; $10 for second place; and $5 for third place in first through third grades.

Formatting for essays should be as follows:

•Seventh through 12th grades — Typed or neatly handwritten in 350 words or less, double-spaced

•First through sixth grade — typed or handwritten in 200 words or less, double-spaced.

Official submission forms can be picked up at the main office of the student’s respective school and must be returned to the same office when completed. School officials collecting entries are asked to call Evelyn Reed at 501-672-5764 once all have been received.

Deadline to enter the contest is Jan. 26. Winners will be announced Feb. 2.
The annual celebration of King’s life will kick off at 7 a.m. Jan. 12, with a prayer breakfast at First Baptist Church in Benton. Reflections will be given by the Rev. Ben Crismon, senior pastor of Benton’s First United Methodist Church.

“We are asking everyone to participate in honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Reed said. “We would like to see the sidewalks of Downtown Benton lined with citizens showing their support, churches, schools, businesses, individuals, etc., participating in the parade with floats, cars, bicycles, walkers, or just whatever it is that you want to do to fill the streets.”

Festivities will continue into the weekend with a 4 p.m. unity and memorial service set Jan. 14.
On Monday, Jan. 15, a “Day of Service” Community Cleanup will be held beginning at 9 a.m. at the Ralph Bunche Community Center.

Lunch for volunteers will be served at noon at the Center. The Center is located at 1600 Dixie St. in Benton.
Following the annual cleanup at 2:30 p.m., the annual Saline County MLK Parade will process through the streets of Downtown Benton.
Grand marshal for this year’s event will be Geneva McDaniel, former education at Ralph Bunche School.
All participants must pre-register and registration is free.

“We welcome all to come and celebrate with us,” Reed said. “This will be the ninth year that we have held the MLK Parade in Downtown Benton, and we are looking forward to many, many more years of continuing this celebration. Show your support and celebrate with us.”