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MLK Jr. Day: A Conversation With Grand Marshal Mamie Webb Hixon

UWF//City of Pensacola

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday will be commemorated Monday with the annual MLK Parade in downtown Pensacola. It’s set for 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 19.

Leading the way as Grand Marshal for this year’s parade is Mamie Webb Hixon, Asst. Professor of English and writing lab director for the University of West Florida. Also, Hixon will be the keynote speaker at a program afterward.

The annual parade is one of the festivities sponsored each year by the Martin Luther King Commemorative Celebration Commission, which chooses a grand marshal based on a person’s service to the community.

Hixon fits the bill, with a long list of accomplishments, awards and accolades, including being nominated for the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 2012. She teachers African American Literature and has written extensively about the black experience. Some of works have been included in local publications such as “When Black Folks Was Colored” and "Images in Black: A Pictorial of Black Pensacola, Volume II.”  Hixon has also written, produced, and performed in a number of “Our Voices Are Many” programs that highlight African American history and culture through song, dance, and dramatic readings. The program has often featured the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The theme for this year’s MLK festivities in Pensacola is “It’s Time to Make Justice for All a Reality.”

Highlights from Mamie Webb Hixon

On this year'stheme:

"One particular morning...it came to me: Charles Dickens! And I'm sure everyone is wondering what does Charles Dickens have to do with this? I thought of "A Christmas Carol" and Scrooge, having those visitors, the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. And I thought, hmm, we need some visitations from the ghosts of civil rights past, present, and future. That's going to be the launching pad. Ghosts of civil rights past would also be synonymous with ghosts of racism past which are now existing today in a sense, because we have those subsidiaries of racism, as I call them. There is still among Afreican-Americans that fear of betrayal by caucasians, there is still that healthy paranoia that many of us have regarding our race. Is something happening to us because we are black? Or because of some other reason? Because as Zora Neale Hurston said, we're not tragically colored, we're not tragically black but we do have to pay attention to certain nuances, certain things that occur, and with that the ghost of the future I think we should begin to educate instead of reacting to everything in such a way that suggests that we are victims or that racism is happening. That's not to say that racism doesn't exist because I think the ghost of Civil Rights present and future will tell us racism is still there."

"We are still, as African-Americans, dealing with invisibility as Ralph Ellison talked about in his book, Invisible Man, because often I think we do feel like we have no voice, that we are unseen and unheard in certain situations so I think I'm going to focus on wake up, wake up, let's focus on our past in civil rights, let's look at our present in civil rights, let's look at our future. Why are we still having problems? As others have said maybe when some generations move on, make their transitions, perhaps the newer generations will be able to function without looking on each other as criminals: looking on the pathology, for instance, of a black man, of the criminal pathology I guess we might call it, for lack of a better term. But looking at each other as human beings."

On recent racially charged events in Ferguson, MO, New York, and elsewhere:

"I think the human quality, the human element of each of the victims, descended while their criminality, or presumed criminality, elements ascended and thus you get a Trayvon Martin, in my opinion, kind of situation. So those things are probably still going to be in our civil rights future."

On the 50th anniversary of the Selma-Montgomery voting rights march and film, Selma:

"I watched an excerpt of Selma and I was moved very emotionally about a woman, played by Oprah Winfrey, who is trying to get her voter registration card and she is asked whether she understands the preamble, she is asked a barrage of questions, all these things are still good for our younger generation to know and to see because they need to see that they are living on this side of history. The history that Martin Luther King, in my opinion, had the clarity and vision and wisdom to know and "see" quote-unquote and understand so he could put us on the other side of history. The other side of history does contain its struggles but we're here and I think that the civil rights movement, and I stay it often, more often than not, it's working and I have a friend who tells me about her child working in Angola. What? Angola? CEO of a company, oh the civil rights movement really worked! When I have someone tell me their son or daughter is an engineer, and these are daughters and sons and granddaughters and sons of people who were quite close to slavery, they weren't in slavery. They weren't enslaved themselves but I think the generations that are living today are definitely generations that have benefited from the civil rights movement and I hope they can appreciate that."



The annual MLK Prayer Breakfast in Pensacola will be held Saturday , January 17, at 8 a.m. at The Wright Place in downtown Pensacola.

The 3rd annual “Living the Dream” event will be held Saturday night at 8 p.m.  at New World Landing in downtown Pensacola.  The event will honor local heroes who carry the torch of Dr. King’s Legacy and will feature a “Tribute to Motown.” Proceeds will benefit the Southern Youth Sports Association.


In Fort Walton Beach, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Program will be held Sunday evening at 5:30 p.m. at Fort Walton Beach High School.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in downtown Pensacola will hold a Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Commemoration this Sunday at 1:30. The special guest for the program is Rev. Dr. Herbert Corbin, Jr. 

Baldwin County is hosting its 29th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration with two events. A memorial service will be held Sunday evening at 6 at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Bay Minette. 

MLK Sunday Services in Pensacola will be held this Sunday, January 18, evening at St. John Divine Baptist Church. The service begins at 7 p.m.

1/19/15 MLK Parades:

The annual MLK Parade in Milton will be held at 10am, beginning at Milton High School down Stewart St. to Elva St.  (Info: Annie Gilmore, 748-8822)

Pensacola’s annual MLK Parade will begin at 11 a.m., downtown.  This year’s Grand Marshal is Mamie Hixon, author and Asst. Prof of English & Director of the UWF Writing Lab. Also, Hixon will be the keynote speaker at the post-parade program.

The annual MLK parade in Fort Walton Beach begins at 8 a.m., with line up starting at the Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium. A rally will be held at FWB high school at noon.  (MLK/FWB: Chair: (301) 906-1229, Co-Chair: (305) 746-3413)

In Baldwin County on Monday, there will be an MLK march down Main Street in Daphne. A program commemorating the historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery will follow at the Civic Center.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.