Ellis challenges crowd to embrace 'responsibility' of MLK Jr.'s dream

Former State Rep. Tyrone Ellis reminded the crowd of one of Martin Luther King’s profound quotes, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve,” during MSU’s 24th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Breakfast last week. PHOTO: Sid Salter | Public Affairs

Former State Rep. Tyrone Ellis challenged a capacity crowd at Mississippi State’s 24th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Breakfast to “live up to the responsibility of the dream.”

The Jan. 15 program was a free, public celebration of King’s life as a Baptist minister, civil rights activist and humanitarian. The event also marked the beginning of a day of service for more than 500 volunteers working at about 20 community organizations in the Golden Triangle in honor of King’s legacy.

Ellis said to realize King’s dream for America, citizens must do more than just reflect on King’s work, but they must embrace the responsibility of “striving to make this world a better place for us all.” He said everyone must be change agents to improve the world around them.

King is well loved today, Ellis said, but the leader endured much mistreatment during the Civil Rights movement. He said King was a realist, a pragmatist and a true American who laid down his life for the good of his country and his fellow man.

“Dr. King realized that the Black Revolution was and is much more than a struggle for the rights of African Americans. You see, the Black Revolution is about forcing America to face all of its interrelated flaws, such as racism, poverty and materialism. Dr. King was concerned about America’s survival. And he knew that in order for America to survive, America had to reexamine the old presuppositions and release itself from lots of things that for many years had been considered sacred,” Ellis explained.

Ellis retired in June 2017 after 38 years of legislative service representing Mississippi’s District 38 in the House of Representatives. He continues his role as pastor of Running Water Baptist Church in Noxubee County.

The Starkville native first took office in 1980 and led House Democrats from 2008 until his retirement. He also was an active member of several committees, including Apportionment and Elections; Energy; Interstate Cooperation; Public Property; and Ways and Means. District 38 includes parts of Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties and formerly included parts of Noxubee County.

Ellis said, “In order to uphold the responsibility of the dream, we individually and collectively must have the strength to remember the dream and what it means to us as Americans.” He added that Americans take much for granted, but it is vital “to remember, to recall, to reflect and to re-appropriate…..if you want to do something for Dr. King, remember the responsibility of the dream – it carries a responsibility. You can’t just talk about it; you’ve got to do something.”

He added of Dr. King, “He was only a man, but a man sent from God.”

The MSU event was sponsored by the Office of the President, Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, and the university’s Division of Student Affairs. The event also featured remarks by MSU President Mark E. Keenum, a performance by the university’s Black Voices Gospel Choir, and a special tribute by the men of the Kappa Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Following the program, MSU’s Maroon Volunteer Center, in coordination with Volunteer Starkville, coordinated MLK Jr. Day of Service activities. Volunteers dispatched to organizations throughout the community, including Camp Seminole, Christian Women’s Job Corps, Christian World Missions, District Five Volunteer Fire Department, Habitat for Humanity Resale Store, J.L. King Community Center, Ms. Smith’s Educational Services, MSU Community Garden, Odd Fellows Cemetery, Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum, Palmer Home for Children and Palmer Home Thrift Stores, Starkville Boys and Girls Club, and Starkville Parks and Recreation, among others.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.

Allison Matthews | Public Affairs

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