After being delayed by winter weather, the birthday celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was on Sunday, Feb. 24, at Scott's Chapel United Methodist Church in Hannibal, hosted by the pastor, the Rev. Linda Spaun.

After being delayed by winter weather, the birthday celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was on Sunday, Feb. 24, at Scott's Chapel United Methodist Church in Hannibal, hosted by the pastor, the Rev. Linda Spaun.

The theme was Making of a Prophet: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The speakers shared different time periods of King's life, from his first exposure to racial prejudice at age 6 until his assassination.

Scripture from Exodus about Moses was read throughout the program by the narrator, W.T. Johnson, and a list of dated civil rights events was displayed on a screen and read aloud by audience members as King's timeline was shared.

Among the events was Rosa Parks being arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955, and the freedom riders becoming active in 1961.

The first speaker, the Rev. Faye Vaughn, explained how King's father inspired and challenged him to not give in to negative treatment, after King at age 6 was told he could not play with a friend because he was black. His parents told him the history of slavery and segregation, and his dad said “although whites act like blacks are inferior, nothing could be farther from the truth. You are as good as anyone else. Don't you forget it.”

The next speaker, Hannibal native Robert Boone, said King's life is a mirror. “I take pride in that he was black, but he was a mirror, a reflection of America.” He said King's church was like a second home to him. He joined it when he was age 5. “Being a Christian could build you up and no matter what whites said or the wicked laws they enacted, the church was a haven where folks could feel free and sing and shout.”

Boone added that education was also important to King, and “He liked the sound of words. … As a young child, he said, 'I'm going to get me some big words.' He skipped grades and enrolled in college” at a young age. … “Martin made history, and history also made Martin.”

Rev. Robin Terrell continued King's life story, saying that in 1963 King became discouraged because he had watched his dream turn into a nightmare. “I saw the nation do nothing. And I saw black brothers struggle,” King had said that after four black girls had been murdered in a church in 1963.

King also saw the war in Vietnam turn into a nightmare, Terrell said that in 1964, the civil rights struggle turned violent in the Watts ghetto in Los Angeles. King opposed violence and did not like the term black power. His wanted to call it black conscientiousness. He started to use the term African-American.

Despite King's struggles, “He didn't give up hope,” Terrell said, adding King said, “No one can ride your back unless you bend over.”

“We are still fighting for human rights, and his dream is still alive,” Terrell concluded. “The struggle is here today, and the struggle is real.”

Marilyn Powell described other ages of King's life story, including his early years. He graduated from high school at age 15 and from Morehead College in Atlanta in 1948 at age 19. King became a minister at age 18 with his father's Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, before receiving his Ph.D in 1955.

Powell said after Rosa Parks had protested bus discrimination in 1955, the Supreme Court ruled it was illegal the next year. In 1958, King protested against the racial court system. And In 1963, King led a freedom march in Washington. He was arrested for demonstrating without a permit and served in solitary confinement. He agreed to stay in jail to draw attention to racial discrimination.

“Although King and others made great strides, the problems still exist,” Powell said. “It is still here now.”

Another Hannibal native, Michael Miller, read and explained a poem he wrote about King, including when King had become opposed to the Vietnam War and joined an organization, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam.

Johnson closed the program by saying that before King died April 14, 1968, in Memphis, he turned to a musician and told him to be sure to sing “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” when he performed that night.

This song was sung by Gale Conley to close the Hannibal celebration. He was accompanied by the church pianist, Jim Riding. Earlier soloists Jim Dewey, Tina Haley and Ashley Conley presented inspirational music.

Before being served birthday party refreshments, the crowd was invited by Faye Dant to view the current exhibit, titled “A Never Told Story in Art History and Music,” at the Roland Fine Arts Center at Hannibal-LaGrange University. The exhibit will have a closing concert by Dr. Paul Griggsby at 6 p.m. March 15.

Also, Katie Wood reported she had been requested to help re-organize the local NAACP, and she provided a sign-up sheet for the people present.

See photo gallery for more pictures of the celebration.

bev.darr@courierpost.com