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County gearing up for MLK Observance
Chante Martin
Midway native and Savannah State University associate professor Dr. Chant Baker Martin will be the keynote speaker at the annual MLK Observance. - photo by Photo provided.

The Liberty County Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Association will observe its annual Martin Luther King Association Celebration Jan. 15-18.

The theme this year is, “I am a movement for unity, justice and equality.”

Here is a schedule of events:

Jan. 15

• Love-it Productions Dramatic Presentation, featuring the Liberty County Mass Male Choir, 7 p.m., Thebes AME Church, 132 Walthour Road, Midway. Host is the Rev. S. Dyann Robertson.

Jan. 16

• Annual Leadership and Grand Marshal Breakfast, 8:30 a.m., Historical Dorchester Academy, 8787 E. Oglethorpe Highway, Midway.

• Youth Extravaganza, 6:30 p.m., Thebes AME Church. Host is the Rev. S. Dyann Robertson.
Jan. 17

• One Nation under God  — Area worship and fellowship services.

Jan. 18

• City Parade, 10 a.m., Bradwell Institute, 100 Pafford St., Hinesville.

• Commemorative Service, noon (following the City Parade), Bradwell Institute Gymnasium. Keynote speaker is Dr. Chanté Baker Martin.

Dr. Chanté Baker Martin
Martin is an associate professor of English and African-American literature at Savannah State University. A native of Midway, she received her formative education in the Liberty County School System. After graduating from Liberty County High School in 2000, Martin graduated magna cum laude with an English degree from Spelman College in 2004.

Martin received a Ph.D. in American studies, with a concentration in 20th-century African-American literature, from Emory University in 2010.
At Savannah State, Martin teaches courses in composition and African-American literature. She currently serves as coordinator of English for the Department of English, Languages, and Cultures. Her work has been published in several periodicals including African American Review, The Southern Literary Journal, The Journal for the Middle Atlantic Writers Association and The Journal of Men’s Studies. She has also presented research at conferences for the College Language Association, the American Language Association, and the National African-American Studies Association. For the 2013-14 academic year, Martin was selected as a Governor’s Teaching Fellow, a distinction awarded by the University of Georgia’s Institute for Higher Education.

Martin is a member of Baconton Missionary Baptist Church; Hinesville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.; and Limerick Chapter 336, Order of the Eastern Star, all in Liberty County. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, mentoring high school girls, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Martin is married to attorney Reginald C. Martin and has one daughter, Olivia. She is the daughter of Herman and Sarah Baker of Midway.

The committee also announced the 2016 award recipients. They are as follows.

Grand Marshal: Mr. James Thomas Jr., first African-American mayor of Hinesville. Recognized for his exemplary service as mayor of Hinesville from 2008-15. Guided Hinesville through commercial and residential growth. Fostered recognition for the city in local, national and international arenas. Served as ambassador with Fort Stewart, strengthening the military-civilian relationship. Led the effort to create an accepted regional concept for the strategic value of the military-related communities from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida. Under his leadership, Hinesville received many awards, accolades and served as host to nationally recognized events.

Civic Award: Councilman Tommy Williams, city of Riceboro. Williams has given 32 years of service to the city of Riceboro and Liberty County. He is the longest-serving city councilman in the county. Williams has worked diligently with former mayor John McIver and current Mayor Bill Austin to position Riceboro as a progressive city that has made many improvements to its infrastructure and services. In addition, Williams has worked to enhance Riceboro’s place as a former Liberty County seat, home and support to many of Liberty County’s largest and oldest industrial partners, historic restoration and renovation recognition, and one of Liberty County’s largest festivals, Ricefest. In addition, he is active in his church and family life. He is recognized for his longevity, shared vision and continuous movement for the success of the city of Riceboro.

Civic Award: City Of Riceboro. The city of Riceboro, a former county seat, has given special attention to historic preservation. The dedication of the baptismal pool, enhancement of the Riceboro Dock and the creation of a new city park, are a few of its recent accomplishments. The annual Ricefest, which recently celebrated its ninth year, has become Liberty County’s largest festival. It is now considered a homecoming for many local residents and those who have moved away. The once-small festival now has been expanded to include the Rice Festival Youth Pageant, Gospel Music Showcase, Homecoming Dance and Ricefest Parade. The two special emphases of the festival are to highlight the importance of the rice culture to the early development of Liberty County and preserve the rich Gullah-Geechee culture of coastal Liberty County. The festival’s Rice Cook-off is a part of a full day of vendors and entertainment provided by local and nationally known artists.

Community Service Award:  Kirk Healing Center. The Kirk Healing Center is a faith-based organization in its eighth year of existence in Liberty County. It serves as a place of healing and refuge for many persons in need in the community. It is a collaborative product of Dr. Alicia Kirk and the late Gary Dodd, both pioneers in caring for those persons residing in the community who need a hand up. Its mission is to provide a safe, live-in environment for homeless men and women by maintaining transitional homes. Shippey House, a home for unaccompanied adult women opened in December 2008. Dodd Place, a home for unaccompanied adult men opened in June 2009. Services include housing, food, clothing, transportation, document recovery, GED prep, life-skills classes, job-search assistance, job training, financial management and housing transition assistance. Residents are encouraged to seek spiritual renewal as part of their healing process.

Trail Blazer Award: Liberty County Re-Entry Coalition. This coalition has been active for the past few years but took on new life when the decision was made to restructure the coalition under the criteria of Gov. Nathan Deal’s re-entry program. This hard work by the coalition received praise from the state assessment team with hope for future state funding. The coalition recently collaborated with the county for office space that will serve as a clearing house for ex-offenders released in Liberty County. The coalition helps parolees and recently released convicts assimilate into society by trying to provide jobs, services and, on occasion, temporary housing. The major components of the coalition include parole and court services, workforce development, faith-based organizations and educational assistance. It is a volunteer grassroots-based organization.

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