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People Must Be Reminded Of King’s Legacy Says YWCA Observance Founder Christine Jackson
Published:
1/14/2015 3:53:34 PM


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
By Barney Blakeney


The YWCA of Greater Charleston for the past 44 years has been prominent in the observance of the Dr. Martin L. King Jr. holiday. From a celebratory ball in 1972, the YWCA’s observance has grown to include area worship services, an ecumenical service, youth programs, recognition awards, ongoing non-violence programs, a combined African American/Jewish program and its annual Business and Professional Breakfast and holiday parade. At the forefront of those activities has been the YWCA’s 37-year veteran executive director now retired, Mrs. Christine O. Jackson.

Mrs. Jackson first came to Charleston as a home economist for Clemson University Extension Service in 1963 following her husband, the Rev. E.L. Jackson, a football coach and Physical Education teacher in Charleston County public schools. He later would become pastor of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in North Charleston.

The pair had migrated to Charleston after her husband was fired from his job in Alabama for marching for civil rights. The fight for equality and justice was a part of the couple’s make-up. It’s a family trait. Mrs. Jackson is first cousin to Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin L. King Jr.

Her love may be tied to of Dr. King by that family connection, but her love for equality and civil rights was cemented long before the two met. She recalled that as a recent college graduate in her rural hometown of Marion Alabama, she had to get her new car serviced and was asked to go to a side window. “You know I didn’t go to that side window,” she retorted in a recent interview.

Shortly after she became executive director of the YWCA, its board of directors in 1972 held the first MLK Ball. Mrs. Jackson said she objected to the ball thinking Dr. King would not want his legacy to be relegated to a celebratory ball.

Her objection led to a conjunctive first MLK Jr. worship service in 1972 held at Rivers High School. The next year the ball was discontinued and the first MLK ecumenical service was held. Eventually the annual worship services moved to Morris Street Baptist Church. The worship service eventually expanded to its current nine venues in various communities around the metropolitan Charleston area.

Renown keynote speakers for the ecumenical service in its inaugural year was Rev. S.S. Seay who along with King were members of the Montgomery Improvement Association. In 1974 the speaker was Rev. Martin L. King Sr. and in 1996 Mrs. Christine King Farris, sister of Dr. King.

At the suggestion of Charleston Chronicle Publisher Jim French, in 1993 the YWCA held its first MLK parade. The annual event in downtown Charleston continues though some programs such as the youth programs have been discontinued.

Mrs. Jackson, who retired from her position at the YWCA in 2003 said it’s imperative that local residents constantly are reminded of the role Dr. King played in addressing institutional racism in America. Without his activism, progress like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may not have come when they did, she said.
 

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