MANSFIELD -- The Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Mansfield Senior High School sought to embark on creating one community.

About 200 members of community, elected officials and students and Mansfield City School administrators gathered at the high school to have breakfast together and listen to the 'We Are One CommUNITY' event on Monday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Student organizations, pastoral leaders, school board members and community members spoke to the audience about the importance of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr. -- as well as strides Mansfield and surrounding areas have made to connect citizens with each other.

"Beyonce is cool, but it takes more than a song about formation to be in formation," said Austin McCoy, a MCS alumni and professor at Auburn University. "It takes more than people saying we need to be together to have people be together. You have to build communities."

McCoy, who teaches world history and American history, weaved stories of King's triumphs from his March on Washington and his "I Have a Dream" speech to his final Sunday morning sermon where he spoke about the Poor People's Campaign in Washington D.C.

He used his speech to inspire Mansfielders in to continue building community and showing solidarity to one another.

Other presenters during the event were Deanna West-Torrence, executive director of the North End Community Improvement Collaborative, and Christen-Lee who spoke about their efforts via a former president Barak Obama-endorsed project called My Brother's Keeper, which helps men of color.

"In our community, Mayor Tim Theaker signed us up to be a My Brother's Keeper community," West-Torrence said. "It was an initiative put forth by President Obama that works at improving the outcomes of African Americans and men of color."

The initiative collects data from public officials and helps communities work together to keep them together, she added. The Richland County Commissioners also proclaimed Monday as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

This event began its planning stages in August of 2019. Members of the planning committee included Stan Jefferson, West-Torrence, Laurence Rawls, Maura Treynor, Winston Greene, Donna L. Hight, Ph.D., Renda Cline, Tiffany Knight-Mitchell, Brooke Miller and Brigette Coles.

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Staff Reporter

Noah Jones is host to The Open Mic Podcast -- available on Apple Podcasts! He is the crime, education and music reporter for Richland Source. He is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and a giant Cardinals fan.