The 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize award for civil rights and social justice was commemorated Monday with prayers, songs and speeches during Liberty County’s annual MLK Jr. Day service at Bradwell Institute.
At 35 years old, King then was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, according to the Liberty County MLK Observance Association, which organized the commemorative service and other MLK Jr. Day activities and events. King used the $54,123 prize award to further the civil-rights movement, according to the association.
Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, commander of 3rd Infantry Division and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield; Liberty County native and Rear Adm. Annie B. Andrews; and Liberty County School Superintendent Dr. Valya S. Lee participated in this year’s observance. Lee was the keynote speaker. She is the first black school superintendent in Liberty County.
“To unleash the power of the dream, we must first understand the power of the dreamer,” Lee began.
She examined King’s life and accomplishments, defining King as a man willing to make personal sacrifices for his ideals. The superintendent also touched on the importance of education and the role it played in developing King’s leadership skills, and his unwavering commitment to the civil-rights movement.
Lee said her two older sisters were involved in the 1963 march on Washington, D.C., where King delivered his “I have a dream” speech. She said she remembered her siblings’ passion and excitement about what would become a pivotal moment in history.
Rep. Al Williams, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette each took a turn at the podium during the event.
Williams, a former civil-rights activist, marched with King from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. He pointed out that many community leaders are now people of color, something that would not have been possible had King and countless others not engaged in the non-violent struggle for civil rights.
Lovette commented that American society has come a long way since the civil-rights movement accomplished much in the past 50 years, but cautioned that citizens should not now “rest on their laurels.”
The Liberty County MLK Observance Association also hosted a leadership breakfast, youth extravaganza and a parade in downtown Hinesville.
The association presented several awards to organizations and individuals.
The 2014 Community Service Award went to The Eleven Black Men of Liberty County Inc., and the Trailblazer Award was given to the Bradwell Class of 1965, including elementary-, middle- and high-school students and their families, who worked toward and witnessed school integration in Liberty County.
The MLK Award was presented to Nicole Carter, a Waldo Pafford Elementary School teacher. Former Liberty County linebacker Raekwon McMillan received the association’s youth award for 2014.
Association president Dr. Alvin L. Jackson said the organization has awarded $100,000 in scholarships since the Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. Observance Association was established.
In addition, this year’s MLK Jr. Day theme, “Unleashing the Power of the Dream … Making It a Reality,” was the subject of a poster contest for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and an oratorical competition for students in ninth through 12th grades. More than 60 poster entries were received along with several oratorical entries, according to MLKOA member Nicole Carter. Monetary prizes and certificates would be awarded to the first-, second- and third-place winners in each category, Carter said.