Biloxi Beach Wade In ceremony message is old but not out of date - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi Beach Wade In ceremony message is old but not out of date

Some attending the Biloxi Beach Wade In ceremony walk beneath the memorial tribute to the civil rights movement. (Photo source: WLOX) Some attending the Biloxi Beach Wade In ceremony walk beneath the memorial tribute to the civil rights movement. (Photo source: WLOX)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

On Friday, the Biloxi Beach Wade Ins of 1959, 1960 and 1963 were honored with a memorial and tribute to those civil rights leaders in Biloxi who fought to have the beaches open to all races.

The ceremony was at the site of the 1963 Wade In at the corner of Porter Avenue and Highway 90.

While the messages shared are old, they are never out of date. It's clear that what was once a protest is now a celebration.

Not all of the 100 people who attended the ceremony were around in the 1960s, and those who participated in the Wade In protests, like the Rev. James Black, said the message must continue to be spread.

“Being able to tell young people the story about what happened and reliving those moments let me know we've come a long ways in South Mississippi, a long way in this country,” Black said. “We didn't see it as being courageous. Even now, I don't see it being courageous. I see it as standing up for what is right.”

The protests were led by Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr., of Biloxi, in hopes of making the beaches open to every race.

“He didn't do it alone, and things like this will never be done by anyone alone,” said his son, Dr. Gilbert Mason, Jr. “He recognized that, and hopefully, the individuals who are senior citizens…seasoned citizens…can continue and will bring along other youngsters to do the same things.”

The ceremony honored those who have passed since the 2013 50-year anniversary observation of the 1963 Wade In and paid tribute to those surviving the historic Civil Rights protests in Biloxi.

It has special meaning to those who are carrying on the legacy of equality and peace. Ja'Leasa Walden, with the Steps Coalition, was also the event coordinator.

“Because there were local people who fought for the rights for me to enjoy the Mississippi Gulf Coast beach, I hold it very dear to my heart,” Walden said.

The murders in a South Carolina church this week were a somber reminder that the work is not done.

“It's a reflection that we still have a long ways to go,” Black said. “It's hard to believe that 50 plus years later, we're still having these problems.”

Friday's ceremony was a prelude to the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, the end of slavery in the United States.

The East Biloxi Community Collaborative will be host to a celebration Saturday and Sunday at John Henry Beck Park in Biloxi.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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