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Committee gearing up for MLK celebration

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POSTED: January 14, 2013 7:00 a.m.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a visionary whose steadfast dedication to equality earned many Americans the rights they have today. And though he died April 4, 1968, his legacy and local ties still are widely celebrated.

The Liberty County Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Association will honor King’s legacy this weekend with four days of events leading up to the annual parade through Hinesville and ceremony at Bradwell Institute.

“We try to involve all of the community,” MLKOA President Dr. Alvin Jackson said about the four days of celebration. “We look at our kids, we look at how we can make it relevant for our kids and everything.”

This year’s theme is “reconnecting with our history while focusing on our future,” and it aims to remind youth, leaders and people of all ages about the equality King strived to achieve, according to MLKOA Second Vice President Kenneth Howard.

“He was for equality, he was for everyone; not just white or black, he was for the equality of each and every one, and if there was any injustice done, then he would stand for justice, he’d stand for what was right,” Howard said. “So it is important that we take those principles and those values that he had and cultivate them and continue to perpetuate it so that we don’t experience or revisit some of the problems that we had in the 60s.”

A live performance of the original play “Every Tom, Dick and Harry” by Love-It Productions will kick off the four-day celebration Friday.

Donald Lovette penned the script.

“This play is a little different from other Love-It Productions’ plays,” Lovette said. “It is filled with humor from beginning to end while also educational. It makes clear the necessity of the younger generation to learn from the older generation. It encourages the older generation to share their wisdom with the younger generation.”

The content emphasizes King’s belief in strong Christian values as the foundation to strong families and a strong America, Lovette added.

The Friday “culture night” is a recent alternative to opening with a church service, which was not as well received as organizers had hoped, Jackson said. It has been successful in pulling a wide range of attendees and reaching younger audiences during the last few years.

Students also have the chance to win scholarships through essay and art competitions by age group, and this year a new media category opened to high-school students, Jackson said.

In recent years, the group has awarded 10 $1,000 scholarships with funds collected from community support, a golf tournament and church contributions. Other funds cover the costs of events coordinated by the volunteer committees, such as the leadership breakfast.

“We do appreciate all of the community involvement and their contributions because they’re helping — if not most of it, but a majority of the money that we receive — goes back to our kids,” Jackson added.

Saturday’s leadership breakfast will bring pastors, elected officials and other leaders together, and Pastor John Morse of Pleasant Grove will offer a message that Howard said should reiterate that “we can’t let the things that divide us overwhelm us; we have to understand that we have more that unites us than divides us.”

During the breakfast, last year’s grand marshal, John D. McIver, will hand over the reins to this year’s — and it’s the first time that the honor has been shared between brothers as Willie James McIver serves as grand marshal.

“We have some unsung heroes that don’t necessarily get the opportunity to share the limelight if you will, but their work is equally as important to our community,” Howard said. “We felt that he is deserving of it, first of all, but a lot of his work goes unknown.”

The event will be at Dorchester Academy, which began as a school for freed slaves and served as a boarding and day school. King and other civil-rights leaders convened there to train teachers on the basics of voter education and non-violent social change. The group also formulated strategies for the 1963 Birmingham, Ala., march within the school’s brick walls.

“In fact, we’re getting a little too big for Dorchester, but we don’t want to leave there; we want the connection to there, so we squeeze them in a little bit,” Jackson said. Between 125 and 150 attendees are expected at the breakfast.

On Monday, the annual parade will wind through downtown beginning at 10 a.m. with more than 80 participating organizations.

Events will culminate with a closing ceremony at noon Monday at the Bradwell Institute gymnasium, where several volunteers and community members will be recognized.

 

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