Fighting, winning

McComb NAACP president Mamie Kettle lights a candle during the annual MLK Day banquet Monday at the Martin Luther King Center in McComb.

The McComb chapter of the NAACP held its annual Martin Luther King Day celebration and honored longtime contributors Monday evening at the Martin Luther King Center.

“Welcome to McComb — the bombing capitol, the beginning of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.” Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said, noting the city’s place in civil rights history.

Lockley said the city has always been a bastion for justice.

“We must keep fighting for justice, social justice and economic justice,” he said.

NAACP Branch President Mamie Manning Kettle said civil rights leaders sacrificed a lot for the rights achieved today and to keep the hope of further equality alive.

“We’ve got to do all we can do in remembrance of them,” she said, referring to the lives of local advocates like the late C.C. Bryant and the late Rev. Frank Lee.

Kettle presented the Dr. Martin Luther King/C.C. Bryant Service Award to Sohken Lisa Bates, the Rev. Gary Brumfield and McComb High School Principal Robert Lamkin.

Attendees of the banquet — themed “When We Fight, We Win” — heard from Jubilee Performing Arts Conservatory Director Dr. Terrance Alexander, who touched on the importance of positivity and community support.

Alexander said he grew up in Baertown and noted that Lockley served as his first instructor at Tougaloo College and left a lasting impression on his life.

“Mayor Lockley really guided my educational career,” he said.

He said his kindergarten teacher impacted his life by encouraging him to be creative in school.

“I’m a firm believer that education should be interactive,” he said.

Alexander recalled a difficult patch in his life over the past few years — the collapse of the downtown building that housed his school and the death of his wife and child not long after that.

He said life will present all sorts of challenges, but positivity and resilience are important in overcoming them.

“God will put you in situations that test the fortitude of your strength,” he said.

He said each person has “soul music,” or the music of life that makes their soul sing. Embracing that music is a key to living a positive life, he said.

“What are some of the songs of your soul music?” He asked. “What is the soundtrack of our community?”

Alexander said being a member of the McComb High School band while growing up in Baertown was an important aspect of his childhood. He said the band represented the heart and soul of the city at the time.

“I grew up in Baertown and I heard the soundtrack of the community,” he said. “I’m saddened that its changed from tubas to police sirens.”

He said embracing music can make a big difference.

“If my soul didn’t sing, I wouldn’t have made it,” he said. “My soundtrack guided my life. What are we doing to infect the youths’ soundtrack?”

Alexander said it’s up to community members to change what’s currently playing.

“I want to leave you with going out to change the soundtrack of the community,” he said.

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