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MLK Day events focus on children
0115 MLK file photo 6
A child rides on First African Baptist Church’s float during last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day events. This year’s parade is at 10 a.m. Monday. - photo by Courier file photo

Martin Luther King Jr. observance events

• The play "Operation Old School" debuts at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16, at Full Gospel Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. Admission is free.

• Leadership breakfast to be held at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 16 at Old Dorchester Center.

• Youth Explosion featuring the Dream Choir and announcement of the 2010 poster contest winners at 6:30 p.m. at Full Gospel Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, 809 Frank Cochran Drive, Hinesville.

• Churches will hold worship services in observance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

• The City of Hinesville will hold a parade and commemorative service. The parade begins downtown at 10 a.m. Following the parade a service will be held inside Bradwell Institute’s gym. The Rev. Ashley Johnson Morris of St. James AME Church of Jones, Ga., will deliver a keynote address.

This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day events will honor King’s legacy while urging young and old alike to hold fast to the slain civil rights leader’s core principles and values.

Liberty County Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Association members have geared a number of activities to include and reach young people. The association selected the theme "Back to the Basics … Doing the Right Things" as one way to teach and guide area youth.

"This year we really wanted to talk to our kids," said the Rev. Al Jackson, an association member. Jackson has been involved in planning local MLK Day events for more than 10 years. He teaches social studies at Midway Middle School.

Jackson said he and other association members

have seen "a departure" from King’s basic principles among American youth. So, they decided to make a concerted effort to draw young people into this year’s four-day observance. All of the scheduled events are free and open to the community.

A play, "Operation Old School," written by Liberty County Commissioner Donald Lovette will kick off the Martin Luther King Jr. Observance.

"Operation Old School" is about a group of high school janitors who attempt to mentor students. The play will debut at 7 p.m. tonight at Full Gospel Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in Hinesville.

The association also will hold a Youth Explosion event at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, at Full Gospel Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in Hinesville. Liberty County school students who have won school essay and 2010 poster contests will be announced during the event. The Dream Choir will perform.

"And we’ll have speakers that can relate to younger people," Jackson said, in reference to Sunday’s numerous church services and Monday’s commemorative service.

The Rev. Ashley Johnson Morris of St. James AME Church in Jones will give the keynote address, he said. The service will be held in Bradwell Institute’s gym following the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade which will
begin at 10 a.m. on Monday.

"Typically, we have over 100 entries in the parade," said association member and Hinesville Assistant City Manager Ken Howard. "We have a lot of support from the local churches and businesses. It’s grown tremendously over the last several years. The parade route has changed somewhat because of the construction on Memorial Drive."

Howard said State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, is the grand marshal for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.

Other leaders in the community will receive awards during the observance, he added.

Steven Mullice, a "life-long county resident dedicated to volunteerism" will be given the association’s civic award, Howard said.

"And we’re honoring two trailblazers," he added.

One trailblazer is Bradwell Institute graduate Gary Guyton, now a starting linebacker with the New England Patriots. It is not certain whether Guyton will attend the parade and commemorative service.

The other trailblazer is Midway’s new mayor, Dr. Clementine Washington.

"She is the first black woman elected to the office of mayor in the city of Midway," Howard said.

The assistant city manager said a majority of Martin Luther King Jr. Day participants are black Americans but stressed, "We get support from the entire community. We bond together and we have challenges, but for the most part we come together very well. We’re excited about what we’re doing and the direction of our county."

Jackson agreed, saying more diverse groups participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance today than was the case 20 years ago.

He said two of the association’s founders, the Rev. Jimmy Smiley and the Rev. Henry Frasier Sr., faced some "controversial feedback" the first few years the observance was held. That has changed for the better, Jackson noted.

"A lot of businesses participate in the (association’s) scholarship program, not just African-American businesses," he said. "We have support from our churches, from elected officials who represent different cities within Liberty County and we have support from the school board. People just join in and try to help any way they can."

Jackson said the association awarded several $500 scholarships to deserving students years ago, but confirmed the scholarship program has grown. Last year the group awarded 10 $1,000 scholarships, he said. The organization’s annual golf tournament helps raise funds for the scholarships, according to Jackson.

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