MARION — “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said to an audience in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957.

Dr. Gwendolyn Diggs, executive director of educational operations at Jennings School District in Missouri, told those gathered at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day Celebration in Marion that King’s question is still relevant today.

She challenged those attending to donate one hour per month to Boyton Street Community Center, the sponsor of the event. She even challenged business owners to allow employees time to volunteer, too.

“If you give one hour per month, by the end of the year you will have given 12 hours of quality time,” Diggs said.

Diggs grew up in Memphis, and was 7 years old in 1968, the year King was assassinated. On March 16, 1968, King marched in support of sanitation works in Memphis.

She said although her parents could see the chaos in the city, Dr. King's presence gave them hope. 

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On April 3, he delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ. The speech urges nonviolence in the strike of Memphis sanitation workers.

On April 4, King was assassinated six miles from Diggs’ home.

On April 8, Coretta Scott King marched with 50,000 people in Memphis just as Dr. King had planned.

On April 9, Dr. King’s funeral was held in Atlanta.

Diggs said within months, Coretta Scott King founded the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolence and Social Change in the basement of their Atlanta home.

Diggs remembered laying on the floor in the middle of their home (a spot her parents thought was safest) listening to people run through their yard and try to get into their home.

For Diggs, King’s legacy lives on through the idea that together we win with love for humanity, which was the theme for the event.

She said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the third Monday in January, was a day meant to honor the life and power and activism of Dr. King and to encourage Americans of all ages, races and backgrounds to join together  

“What will happen if we do not stop to help the people who need help? What will happen if we don’t show love for humanity?” Diggs asked.

During the celebration, Ron Ferguson, chairman of Boyton Street Community Center board, recognized community service award recipients, Dorothy Carter, who will celebrate her 100th birthday Jan. 21, and Marion Mayor Robert Butler, who Ferguson called “a key contributor to what we do” at Boyton Street Community Center.

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He also recognized recipients of the Kathleen Pape Scholarship, Tori Holst, a freshman at North Central College in Naperville, and Alexis Hart, a junior at Maryville University in St. Louis. Donations were accepted during the celebration for the scholarship fund.

The program for the celebration included music and readings from Boyton Street Community Center’s Afterschool All Stars and music from Refuge Temple Church of God in Christ and the Women’s Ensemble from St. Paul’s Chapel.

The event ended with a luncheon.

Boyton Street Community Center in located at 501 W. Boyton St. in Marion. For more information call 618-997-1113.

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