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McKENZIE (February 2) — “Wake Up Everyone” was the theme of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration event held at the historic Webb School in McKenzie.The event featured a …
McKENZIE (February 2) — “Wake Up Everyone” was the theme of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration event held at the historic Webb School in McKenzie.
The event featured a mass choir composed of area churches. The music was led by Tremayne Johnson, who also performed a vocal solo.
The keynote speaker was Joseph Conrad Atkins, son of Conrad and Gina Atkins and the grandson of Clarence and Ruby Norman and the late Eleanor Atkins.
Joseph is a Huntingdon native, and a graduate of Huntingdon High School in 2014 and the University of Memphis in 2018.
While at UM, he was a member and officer of the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature and a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a concentration in African-American Studies. He resides in Jackson.
He was introduced by his father, Conrad. Joseph gave the message about how the traditional African-American churches were very active in the 1960s in the promotion and protection of civil rights. Today, the churches are silent.
The young Atkins said the death of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, in Florida. George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man, was the neighborhood watch coordinator for his gated community, where Martin was visiting his relatives at the time of the shooting. Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder charge of Martin. Atkins said his confidence was rocked and was concerned for his own safety after the event. He was the lone black youth in some of his classes at Huntingdon High School. Up to that point, Joseph said he felt safe in his hometown of Huntingdon and his church.
Joseph’s message was the African-American churches need to again be active in promoting social justice.
Carroll County Mayor Joseph Butler and McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland both addressed the gathering and thanked the attendees for their contributions to the community.
Webb School, a primary and second school for African-Americans, closed in 1965 following the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Originally founded in 1923 as the black “County Training School” at the Smyrna community in Carroll County, Tennessee. It was moved to McKenzie in 1927, and named “Webb High School” in honor of John L. Webb. With over 1900 alumni, this school, under the leadership of J. L. Seets and T. A. Warford has had a national impact in developing black leadership.
Webb Alumni Association owns the building on Walnut Avenue, McKenzie. Northwest Tennessee Head Start operates from the building. The Alumni Association maintains a museum and hosts community events in the former gymnasium/cafeteria.