Watson Chapel High School students celebrated Thursday the peaceful legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at an assembly. The assembly is part of Kingfest celebration and is to honor the late King through racial harmony and service projects.


The Rev. Jesse Turner of the Pine Bluff Interested Citizens for Voter Registration Inc. thanked Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson for separating the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday from that of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Turner said Arkansas has now left Mississippi and Alabama in the dust.


Turner told students to honor King’s legacy by being peaceful. He told them to read and get an education rather than quit school and turn to a life of crime that leads to the penitentiary.


“Dr. King said the ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenges and controversy,” Turner said.


Watson Chapel High School senior/homecoming queen CeAnna Blunt gave a speech to her classmates. She said she was bullied by other girls when she was in seventh grade and overcome that by not resorting to their level.


“It really bothers me when I see girls fighting, arguing or anything of that nature, especially over nonsense such as no-good boys, jealousy, and so many other things,” Blunt said. “But as young ladies, we have to raise our standards and know our worth. And also as young ladies we should build each other up, not tear each other down. If you have to fight another girl or argue with another girl over a boy, then you should definitely sit down and think if you should really be messing with this young man.”


Blunt finished by quoting from the Gospel of Matthew 7:12: “Do to others as you would have others do to you.”


King was murdered in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had gone to support the rights of that city’s sanitation workers who were asking for better working conditions and compensation. He was 39 years old. King rose to national prominence in the 1950s as a Baptist preacher. He gave many speeches including his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., in 1963 in which he dreamed of a world in which people judged each other by the content of their character, rather than by the color of their skin.


Turner showed a video depicting news footage of black Americans who were being beaten and sprayed with fire hoses during the civil rights era. The video included a recitation of the “Negro National Anthem.”


Watson Chapel Superintendent Connie Hathorn was a teenager when King was assassinated.


“I want to let you know something: I’m human,” Hathorn said. “When that song was playing, tears came out of my eyes because I was part of that movement. On April 4, when Dr. King was assassinated, I remember that very, very well.”


He recalled how Americans endured the assassinations of King, President John Kennedy in 1963, Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X in 1965, and presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy in 1968.


Hathorn told the students they have great potential and need to make the right decisions to fulfill it. He discussed the Interested Citizens for Voters Registration’s Pen and Pencil organization that teaches students to finish their education.


“People in the penitentiary, the average grade level that they’re reading on is the seventh grade,” Hathorn said. “That’s why when I come into the classroom we talk about that. We don’t need to fight. We need to read. And we can do it. The Rev. Turner said he believes in you. We the staff believe in you. You have to believe in yourself. We will not back down until all of you graduate. Our administrative team and all the teachers we have pushed, pushed, and pushed. Now it’s up to you.”


The assembly included Watson Chapel student Ty’esha Fields reading a poem “I Leave You Love” and reciting the Apostle Paul’s letter in 1 Corinthians chapter 10. Fellow student Jasmine Lawson sang the National Anthem and Student Council President Omar Allen gave welcoming remarks.


Students celebrated King’s birthday by eating cake at the end of the assembly.