Flanked by her three sons, Margaret Keyton addresses the crowd during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Program at the Mount Beulah Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday. Culminating her talk, Keyton led the crowd in a chant to “Keep the Dream Alive.”
Photo: Recardo Thomas
It's been 35 years since the first program commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was first held by the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee and the annual event is still experiencing success in awarding scholarships to area students.
Operating under the theme “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A day on... not a day off,” this year's program featured a poetic presentation by Mayra Brooks, a theatrical presentation by the Young and Talented School of Performing Arts and dramatical readings by Young Adult Ministry.
The First United Baptist Church Senior Choir provided music for the event; Dr. Adrian Brown Ph.D. provided the occasion and committee member Emma Golden recited the welcome to the congregation and proclaimed this year’s program honoree.
Retired educator Margaret Keyton was recognized for her many years of service to the committee and the community. “I am really shocked, every word that you can think of that you can find in the dictionary that means the same thing as shocked, I am,” Keyton said.
Although she is a native of Kilmichael, Mississippi, the 1999 retiree spent 42 years teaching in the Indianola and Sunflower County school districts.
The mother of four had much to say about her experiences growing up and her early years, but told the congregation she didn’t come to make a speech about that. “You want to hear more about that, come to my house and I can tell you something,” she said.
But before relinquishing the microphone, Keyton reminisced about how things were when she was younger. “And I told you I wasn’t going to say no more about that, didn’t I,” she said with a smile. She spoke of how people used to share what little they had with each other and looked out for each other adding, “We’re going to have to just go back to those basics.”
The featured speaker for Sunday’s celebration was Barbara Baymon, Instructor of Speech and Director of Theater at Mississippi Valley State University. Addressing the attentive congregation, the Isola native quoted from the second book of the Corinthians and stated, “If we can conceive, believe and dream, then certainly we can achieve.”
Reflecting on the achievements of past leaders, Baymon implied that the accomplishments of the sixties “created new problems.” Baymon said, “The focus has shifted from civil rights to more complex issues such as black on black crime, voter’s registration and a crisis dear to most Mississippians and to my heart, the survival of black colleges and universities.”
She addressed the likely solution to that issue and promoted the need for quality education. She talked about what the black race has come through and surmised that, “Our past has propelled us to where we are today. In order to continue moving forward we should remember the sweat, the pain, the despair of our fore parents. Remember the years heavy with sorrow and make of those years a torch for tomorrow,” she said.
Baymon concluded her comments with a statement she wanted them to consider.
“Be obedient, be ready to do whatever is right, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate and show true humility towards all men,” she said, “Now, I need you to go out in the streets and act on that because this is a day on, not a day off and we’ve got work to do.”