Greenville activist group hosts event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on anniversary of his death

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Wikipedia)

Davida Mathis, the chairman of Rainbow PUSH Greenville, was 12 years old when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, which Mathis still remembers vividly.

Mathis was in seventh grade at the time and attended Greenville Junior High School. On Apr. 4, 1968 she recalls her and her family together watching the Six O'Clock News. That night, they were watching excerpts from Dr. King's Apr. 3 speech, the day before the assassination, which took place at Mason Temple in Memphis.

Mathis retells her story of what it was like 50 years ago today, and how she felt watching Dr. King's assassination at such a young age.

Mathis recalls, "He was saying 'I've been to the mountain top. I may not get there with you.' My mother was in her chair sewing when he said those things, she sat up straight and said 'he's going to be assassinated' and we were like you know, silent. And just a few minutes later the bulletin came on television that Dr. King had been shot and killed."

At age 12, Mathis knew the word for this tragedy, tracing back to president Kennedy's death in 1963. However, the young girl knew this time was different.

Mathis stated, "I felt horrified and mostly I felt afraid and I was afraid for my own everyday life. I seriously thought about the possibility that we could go back into slavery, that was my first thought."

Mathis remembers how much Greenville had changed dramatically in a few short years, very much because of Dr. King's work. She spoke of the days when Greenville was totally segregated, and how she feared Dr.King's progress would fade.

The next day, Mathis and her sister, Janice, went back to Greenville Junior High. "We had to endure the laughter and cheers of the white children who were rejoicing because Dr. King had been killed. All day I thought we would be going back into slavery," said Mathis.

As she concluded her memories of that day, she knows now it seemed unrealistic that slavery would be put back into place. However, it was not unrealistic to think about losing things that were gained during Dr. King's activism.

She concluded her story from 50 years ago with a quote from Dr. King that is relevant to this day: "We've come a mighty long way, but we still have a long, long way to go."

Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a non-profit organization committed to the pursuit of civil rights, social justice and political activism.

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