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Jonesboro leaders to use MLK message to focus on youth


53-years ago, the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr gave the famous “I Have A Dream” speech.  In that speech, he called for equality and unity for all people.  The speech is also at the heart of many service projects that take place nationwide, because the speech was a call to action.  Millions of Americans across the county honor the memory of the late Dr. King by serving others.  The message of serving others is what the annual holiday is all about. 

This year marks the 15th year the holiday is being celebrated in Jonesboro.  An event for the youth is being held Sunday at Arkansas State University and on Monday, the annual parade starts at 10:30 at the New St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Jonesboro.  The community program begins at noon on Monday at St. Bernard’s Auditorium.  During this year’s celebration, there is a focus on how to keep Dr. King’s message alive through the entire year.  This year’s theme centers on the question, “What Are You Doing for Others?”  Ashley Wilson is marketing director for the Craighead County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade Committee in Jonesboro. 

"This is self-reflection as we are asking what are we doing to help others in this community to promote unity and social change, as well as education and coming together as a community," said Wilson.

Reverend Dr. Ray Scales of the New St. John Missionary Baptist Church of Jonesboro says praying for the community is a good start, but it is Dr. King’s call to action that will actually help others in Jonesboro.  He says pastors in Jonesboro have been meeting about how to help others, but he says it is time for action.

"It's good that we pray, but there are only so many people that we can reach on a Sunday morning," said Scales.  "Are we really reaching the ones that need it?  Do we need to reach other areas?  What do we do?  We need to spread out all over the community to let them know we are here."

Reverend Scales says he can remember when Dr. King made that speech and says that some progress has been made over the years since the speech, but he says there are still some significant challenges that young people face.

"There is a link that is missing.  We know what the problem is and we just need to step it up.  We know the jails are too full.  There are too many black men that are there who have actually committed crimes.  Maybe we need to focus on that issue to try to reach them."   

When it comes to bringing Jonesboro together, Scales says the first step is to get involved with the youth in the community.

"The problem is that young people believe that not a lot of people care for them.  If we show them over and over again the community does care, this will help.  Also, let's make sure there plenty of opportunities for young people to get job training and get them into the society."  

Ray Scales.  That emphasis on youth has been increasing.  Over the past four years, the MLK Youth Explosion has seen steady growth, and other 100 young people are expected to participate in this year’s activities.  Ashley Wilson says she is excited about this year’s event, but she also wants to make sure there is the same excitement about Dr. King’s message throughout the year, not just this holiday weekend:

"This needs to take place year-round.  With all of the things that are going on in this world, we need to work harder to bring people together for promoting the same message."

Ashley Wilson.  For more details on the events that are taking place Sunday and Monday in Jonesboro, go to our website at kasu.org.