For a second year, the legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was remembered and his life of unity and service was honored through an run and program held in DeSoto County.
The local chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority and the nonprofit Precious Pearls Foundation held its annual MLK Unity 5K run and Unity Celebration at the Snowden House, part of Snowden Grove Park in Southaven.
On a chilly, but sunny Martin Luther King Day morning, runners took part in that annual run that started at 8:30 a.m. and led up to the Unity Celebration that followed.
The program was meant to honor and remember King’s legacy as a leader in the civil rights movement before his assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968.
As much as remembering King’s legacy was important, so was the message of service to others, done as simply as bringing a can of food.
Funds from the 5K run helped support the Precious Pearls Foundation, but those who ran in the 5K run could have $5 deducted from their entry fee if they brought with them three canned goods or non-perishable food items for the Feed My Lambs food ministry of Minor Memorial United Methodist Church of Walls.
“Every weekend we partner with Walls Elementary and Lake Cormorant Elementary and send home bags of food to the students that may not have enough to eat over the weekend,” explained Minor Memorial UMC Pastor Amanda Gordon. “They each get a bag of food each weekend that contains two breakfast items, two lunch items and four snack items.”
Gordon said the partnership with Precious Pearls Foundation came about as the foundation is connected with a number of DeSoto County schools, including Walls Elementary and looked for ways to serve those schools.
Feed My Lambs serves weekend meals and snacks to just over 160 students among the two schools, at a cost of $3 per student, per week. The ministry is now in its seventh year of existence.
“I think Martin Luther King wanted us to look beyond color, beyond class and beyond everything to that spirit of love and community that works well,” Gordon said.
Sorority member Ursula Turner provided the tribute to King at the program that followed the run inside the Snowden House and talked about his impact to all.
“As we all know, Dr. King wore many hats,” Turner said. “He was a son, a brother, minister, a husband and a father and a civil rights activist. It is this day that we pause and reflect on how one man inspired the world.”
Zeta Phi Beta is a national sorority of African-American women founded in 1920 at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Members of the local chapter instituted the Precious Pearls Foundation, which since 2015 has “developed customized and highly successful programs based on providing the kind of support that would make a meaningful difference,” according to its website.
Sorority president Neffie Gatewood said the message of service and unity is important to share based on what is happening to divide the nation today.
“Considering the times that we are at now and the challenges that we are having on multiple levels, we want to make sure we stand together,” Gatewood said. “We think it is important that we work together and not be divided.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.