Thousands Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Day

Thousands of South Mississippi residents spent a part of their Monday celebrating the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.

They remembered the late civil rights leader with parades, speeches and special events.

One of the largest gatherings was in Biloxi, where the annual parade and ceremony attracted a crowd of some fifteen thousand.

The picture perfect weather probably had a lot to do with this year's impressive turnout. The past two years, it rained on the King Day parade.

But not this year. Sunny skies and a festive crowd greeted the annual celebration.

Alcorn State's marching band kept an upbeat tempo during the parade down Division Street.

Marching bands are a crowd favorite. But the focus remains on the man and his message.

"I want them to remember what he stood for," said Yvonne Agee.

The elderly Biloxi woman has been watching the world from her Division Street porch since 1926. She says the festivities are fine, but she also wants children to understand the reason for the celebration.

"Some of them don't know it. But there are a lot. She, for instance, she don't know but her mother and her grandmother know. And they teach her," she said.

Young Michael Anthony II enjoyed the parade candy like any two year old would. But his father will make certain Dr. King's message of equality won't pass him by.

"I would like him to know that he worked to help all of us be free and help us get better jobs and equal opportunity for everyone," said Anthony.

Thousands filled Yankie Stadium for the King Day Ceremony. The impressive crowd was a welcome sight for a long time coast civil rights leader.

Dr. Gilbert Mason addressed the crowd after accepting a special award from the Biloxi Elks Lodge.

"I'm so happy to see all of you here today. I remember in 1977 we didn't have enough people to fill the front two seats," he recalled.

Finding a seat was a challenge for those attending the 2003 celebration. The keynote speaker encouraged the crowd to work toward Dr. King's dream.

Biloxi physician, Dr. Belinda Alexader, says much work remains until Dr. King's dream is realized.

"So I look to our youth. I look to the teenagers. I look to the voting community. You've got to wake up people," she said.

Music was also a big part of the celebration at Yankie Stadium.

The annual battle of the bands featured talented squads from Jackson State University, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State.