BILOXI, MS -- The Biloxi City Council will meet Monday to discuss using the name “Great Americans Day” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the mayor posted on the city’s website on Saturday.
Biloxi was at the center of a social media firestorm when the city published now-deleted Twitter and Facebook posts that read “Non-emergency municipal offices in Biloxi will be closed on Monday in observance of Great Americans Day.” The posts referred to the third Monday in January, which is also the federal holiday that honors civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. There was no mention of King originally but the Facebook was appeared to be edited to include MLK Day.
In subsequent posts, the city of Biloxi tweeted that it is a state holiday, but a list of Mississippi state holidays didn’t list “Great Americans Day.” Mississippi is one of three states that recognizes Robert E. Lee on the third Monday in January in addition to Martin Luther King, Jr.
According to the Sun Herald newspaper, Biloxi designated in an ordinance in 1985 that the third Monday in January will “honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as other great Americans who have made important contributions to the birth, growth and evolution of this country.”
Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said in a statement on the city’s website that he believes the Code of Ordinances should be updated to the official federal name of the holiday. Biloxi’s Twitter and Facebook pages also featured a statement by him on Friday night saying that
After thousands of shares and retweets, Biloxi spokesman Vincent Creel told WLOX that the city instantly became click bait.
“We’re being called racist. That’s not the people of Biloxi, that is not the mayor, or the city council of Biloxi,” Creel said. “It’s just unfortunate that we’re now being painted with that brush.”
Creel says the reaction is disheartening, given that the city has done a lot for the annual MLK celebration.
“It was an honest error. I think they just pulled the verbiage from it and posted it on the tweet, and when there was a reaction to it, there’s no cover up,” said councilman Kenny Glavan. “You know, we’re all looking at it and saying, ‘Hey, we need to change it.’”
“It brought a light to everything, which is great,” said councilman Felix Gines. “Because it gives us a chance to straighten it out.”
Officials hope to avoid any long-term damage.
“We encourage you to come out and live the dream, this is what Dr. King is all about. Dr. King’s dream is about fighting, standing in there fighting, not sitting on the sidelines. Fighting to make that change, and we are making that change,” noted Gines.
Resident Glenda Crawford says the viral uproar was an overreaction.
“Biloxi is so different than what they made it out to be,” Crawford said. “Everybody here sees no color. We’re all one here. We all get along as one.”
Markita McIntyre understands the reaction because the way of communication nowadays isn’t like it was in 1985.
“We have Twitter, we have Instagram, we have Facebook. Everything is more relevant than it was,” she said. “We have a right to feel the way we do but it happened so long ago.”
There wasn’t much talking going on at an MLK Day event called Gospel Explosion in nearby Gulfport, but that didn’t mean the now notorious Biloxi tweet wasn’t in the back of everyone’s mind, WLOX reports.
“At first it was really hard for me to believe. I actually read it and re-read it because I kind of felt like, no, that’s not what they’re saying,” said Ritchie Moffett.
The controversial tweet referring to MLK Junior Day as Great Americans Day doesn’t sit well with many. In fact, it sparks outrage in most.
“I lost my mind because I remember when they did this Great American Day that was back several years ago, and it was crazy then,” said Gwendolyn Beck.
Hollie Parimon’s son, who lives more than 500 miles away, called her when he first saw it on social media.
“My son from Dallas, Texas called me in regards to the tweet that was going around in Biloxi Mississippi, and he was very upset about it,” said Parimon.
Bonnie Martin of McComb hasn’t seen the online firestorm, but calls it a slap in the face to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and what he went through.
“Mississippi, it’s like we’re already fighting to be better and something’s always putting us down,” said Martin.
One Gulfport resident says he has faith the current Biloxi city leaders will make it right.
“I’m still a little stunned by what’s going on, but I feel like the outcome is going to be great. I understand that there is a meeting coming, and I feel like people are going to share their personal testimonies on what that day means and I think everything is going to be fine,” said Moffett.