“We shall overcome someday….” These words could be heard as marchers marched from J.J. Knox Gym at 11:30 a.m. to the Montgomery County Courthouse where many were awaiting their arrival and the start of the Dr. Martin L. King Jr. celebration.
The 29th annual celebration was held by the 3P Ministry, Pondering and Planning with a Purpose, along with the Citizens of Alliance. The celebration began with a banquet Friday night at Zion District Association Building where Dr. Stephen T. Cook, Superintendent of the West Jackson District of the Mississippi Annual Conference of the United Methodist Churches, was the speaker for the evening. Then, a prayer breakfast was held at the Zion District Association building where the honorable Chynee A. Bailey was the speaker.
Monday morning, after a march commemorating the way Dr. Martin L. King Jr. marched for equality, freedom and all may live in harmony, it climaxed into a program where many came together to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King.
The speaker of the event was the honorable Dennis Sweet, IV. Sweet gave a soul stirring speech asking the question: Will you be a social engineer or a leech?
“My father, who is also a lawyer, told me that when you’re practicing the law and you’re black, you’re one of two things: you’re either a social engineer or a leech. A social engineer has the power to access the courts, hold people accountable and give a voice to the voiceless. But, a leech takes from the community that gave to him. I choose the former.”
Sweet gave examples of Civil Rights cases he’s worked on that continued Dr. King’s legacy. One of the well-known cases he mention was the incident of Walter Grant in the death of Willie Bingham, Jr. At the time of the incident, Grant worked as a sheriff’s deputy for the Bolivar County Sheriff’s Department. He is accused of shooting and killing Bingham, who at the time was unarmed, but Grant stated he thought a baton was a shotgun.
However, in 2017, Grant plead guilty to planting a baton at the crime scene. Sweet said it was because of the investigation that his firm opened that the pivotal key piece of evidence was found.
“He admitted it, and they have since indicted him for murder.”
Sweet said working on cases like the Bingham case is a form of Civil Rights and how it effectuates change. “My mother is a college professor. She teaches love and unity as a professor, that’s a form of Civil Rights. Right here in Winona, My aunt Tela is active in her church, she’s active in her community, and she works with the young people in town and pushes them to do right. That’s a form of civil rights. My grandparents were school teachers. That’s how they were affecting lives.
He went on to say that it takes courage to stand up for what’s right. “We’re at a pivotal place in this country. It’s not acceptable that we’re the wealthiest nation, but have the highest level of child poverty. It’s not acceptable that we have more people in jail, than any other country. We need to focus on jobs and education and not incarceration. It’s not acceptable that young black boys and girls are dying at the hands of those who took an oath to protect and serve them. It’s not acceptable. It’s up to us to stand together and to invoke the courage of Dr. King. That’s what he fought and died for.”