Contact: Sid Salter
STARKVILLE, Miss.—The president of an interdenominational movement promoting racial reconciliation throughout the state challenged his audience to “find your own dream” and “make your own contribution” during Mississippi State’s 22nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Breakfast at The Mill at MSU Conference Center.
Neddie Winters of Jackson-based Mission Mississippi addressed a capacity crowd of over 1,000 as the keynote speaker at the free, public celebration of King’s life and legacy as a Baptist minister, humanitarian and civil rights activist.
“Although I did not always have a seat at the table for most of my life, I soon learned that you have to bring something with you once you get a seat at that table,” said Winters. “We have much to celebrate today. You are not closed out from the table. Nothing is keeping you out. I challenge you to celebrate Martin Luther King’s life, labor and legacy.
“To all of you here today, you still have the opportunity to have your dream. The privilege we have is to do what we want to do, and we can all still dream today,” Winters said.
The celebration also included remarks by MSU President Mark E. Keenum and a performance by the campus’s Black Voices Gospel Choir. Keenum called Winters’ remarks “a real blessing” and lauded his career in pursuit of meaningful racial reconciliation in Mississippi.
“We’re fortunate in this county, city and at this university to have great unity, great diversity and great cooperative leadership,” said Keenum. “I think this is what Dr. King envisioned. He understood the value of education and service, and together, we can work to inspire and uplift the next generation of the people of Mississippi.”
Keenum also reminded the audience that in terms of African American diversity, MSU remains the most diverse institution in the Southeastern Conference and that MSU has more African American students enrolled than any institution in Mississippi except Jackson State University.
The MSU event is sponsored by the Office of the President, Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, and Holmes Cultural Diversity Center.
Throughout the day, the university’s Maroon Volunteer Center is overseeing MLK Jr. Day of Service activities. Volunteers are serving at locations across the community, including the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge and Starkville’s Area Habitat for Humanity, Cemetery Association, Boys and Girls Club, Sportsplex/Community Volunteer Fair, and Christian World Missions. A volunteer fair is also being held at the Starkville Sportsplex.
A Tunica native now residing in Clinton, Winters is an Alcorn State University agriculture graduate who went on to earn a master’s degree in public financial management from American University in Washington, D.C. He also completed biblical studies at the Reform Theological Seminary in Jackson and Stephen Olford Preaching Institute in Memphis, Tennessee.
He holds honorary doctorates in the humanities and Christian ministries from, respectively, the New Foundation Theological Seminary in Terry and Belhaven University in Jackson.
In addition to 20 years of experience in pastoral ministry, Winters has more than 40 years of experience in management, administration, executive leadership, mortgage financing, agricultural and non-agricultural lending, as well as training and promotional development activities.
Mission Mississippi works to encourage and demonstrate “grace in the Body of Christ across racial lines, so that communities throughout Mississippi can see the practical evidence of the gospel message.” For more about its missions, visit www.missionmississippi.net.
For more about the volunteer service-day, visit www.mlkdaystarkville.com.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.