Wiggins will not be hosting the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day events for the first time in nearly 40 years due to the pandemic.

Since 1982, the federal holiday’s events have been an anticipated community celebration. Typically, the events would take place this Friday and Saturday.

“Not holding our annual events in honor of Dr. King was a decision that we felt was best for the health and safety of our community surrounding the circumstances of COVID-19,” said Shyra Galloway, who serves as public relations chair for the committee.

Galloway said the committee will continue planning to host the regular events in 2022.

“We will continue the works as a committee and community and look forward to bringing our annual events back in the upcoming years,” Galloway said.

The federal holiday honoring the Civil Rights icon was signed into law in 1983. It is always the third Monday of January, which falls near King’s birthday on Jan. 15.

King advocated for equal rights and was a voice for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. King successfully helped protest racial discrimination at the federal and state level.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” King wrote in what is now called the “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.”

King wrote the an open letter written on April 16, 1963, after peaceful protesters were abused for challenging segregation in Alabama.

He argued that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and actively fight discrimination. Many people read this letter each January.

King is probably most well-known for his “I Have a Dream,” speech, which he gave during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom later that same year.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” King said. “…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.”

King spoke to over 250,000 civil rights supporters in front of the Lincoln Memorial. It is now considered one of the most iconic speeches ever given by an American.

In 1968, King went to Memphis to support of the Black sanitation workers who were on strike for fairer wages and safer working conditions.

On Thursday, April 4, 1968, King was standing on the Lorraine Motel’s second-floor balcony when he was fatally shot by his assassin, James Earl Ray.

The campaign for a federal holiday in King's honor began soon after his assassination, but was only observed by all 50 states in 2000.

The Stone County Countywide Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee was first organized under the direction of longtime educator Myrtle Jones.

The committee typically hosts a program with various public speakers on a Friday evening before the holiday and the parade.

The event includes songs, speeches, and skits all in honor of King’s life. The annual program is also where the Grand Marshal is announced for the parade, which is always scheduled on the Saturday before the holiday.

The role of committee chair was held by the late alderwoman Johnette Galloway, to Clifton Anderson, and now Pastor Calvin Ramsey, Sr.

Ramsey said the holiday celebrates King’s desire for unity and equality.

“It is not a matter of black or white,” Ramsey said. “It’s a matter of doing what is right and treating people fairly and equally in all areas of life. We must remember that it’s not just about dreaming about the works, but also about doing the works.”

The annual events may have been canceled, but King’s legacy continues to inspire.

“We take pride in honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. each year through our annual events,” Ramsey said. “It is important that we continue to live out the dream of Dr. King and do so in a way that speaks peace, love, unity, and equality throughout this community and nation.”

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