Harrison County

Update: Biloxi officially names holiday ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day’

Seeing Biloxi on ABC News was not the way Eula Crowell wanted to start the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“That’s not Biloxi because we’re better than that,” she told the Biloxi City Council at a special 10 a.m. meeting that Council President Dixie Newman said was called to “correct a mistake.”

Just 20 minutes before the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade was set to kick off, the Council voted 6-0 to change the name of the holiday in the city’s Code of Ordinances from “Great Americans Day” to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Councilman David Fayard was absent from the last-minute meeting. Robert Deming III arrived from Los Angeles after the meeting had started and said, “I’m glad to be back in time to be part of this vote.”

Deming said he was at a social event in Los Angeles and when he told people he is from Biloxi, the uproar over a tweet by the city of Biloxi calling the holiday “Great Americans Day” was the topic of conversation.

A Biloxi ordinance officially called the holiday “Great American Day” since 1985, although the name seemed to have been forgotten by many until the Friday afternoon Facebook post and Tweet. The city later deleted it after spending several hours defending the post.

Biloxi Councilman Felix Gines said before Monday’s meeting, “It’s just another step, another part of the Civil Rights struggle.”

Allytra Perryman, MLK Committee co-chair for South Mississippi, was one of more than a dozen people who spoke during Monday’s meeting. She said the controversy in Biloxi shouldn’t overshadow the events planned to commemorate King’s life.

Gulfport Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines said she attended the meeting to support the mayor and council, all of whom are up for re-election this year.

Although the name was adopted in Biloxi 32 years ago, it has nothing to do with today, she said.

“The only thing we can do with darkness is shed light,” she said.

Crowell had fired up the crowd with her comments and after the meeting said, “I believe in one thing and that’s what’s right. Republican or Democrat, as long as you do what is right then you’ve got my vote,” she said.

This isn’t the last word on race relations in Biloxi.

Sugar Stallings, a Biloxi attorney, called on the administration to do more and diversify its hiring. She asked for “people who look like us in these leadership positions.”

A proclamation left on the reception desk at city hall Monday said Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich will join the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in designating Jan. 17 as the National Day of Racial Healing. The multi-year observance is to engage communities across the nation in racial healing and address inequalities, the proclamation says.

History of MLK Day in Biloxi

1984: Mayor Gerald Blessey and Councilman Bill Stallworth introduced a resolution designating Jan. 15, 1984 as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Week in Biloxi, recognizing King's contribution “in urging us to see justice rather than revenge, and to refrain from resorting to acts of violence to implement social changes,”

1985: Ordinance 1398 created “Great Americans Day” in Biloxi to continue to honor King “as well as other great Americans who have made important contributions to the birth, growth and evolution of this country.”

1986: Blessey issued Executive Order 86-1 declaring Jan. 20, 1986, Martin Luther King Day in the city

2017: Biloxi Council voted 6-0 to rename the holiday Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day