Atlanta, GA – The King Center’s 10-day program commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 84th birthday reflected the Civil Rights leader’s impassioned advocacy of diversity, nonviolence and youth activism in challenging the nation to fulfill his dream. The King Center organized and co-presented 14 well-attended events during the 2013 MLK observance.
“Our 2013 observance of my father’s birthday was among the most inspiring and exciting programs we have held during the King Center’s 45 years of annual commemorations of MLK day,” said King Center Chief Executive Officer Bernice A. King. “Our events, which were all well-attended and integrated youth throughout, emphasized the importance of healing and reconciliation throughout the world and helped to set a foundation for our year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and the ‘March on Washington’.” The 50th anniversary celebration will be a collaborative effort between The King Center, National Park Service, key convening organizations of the ’63 March on Washington and other current human and civil rights entities. Ms. King further shared, “The 50th Anniversary celebration will engage people of all races, religions, nations and diverse organizations to respond to a global call to action. We must ensure that everyone has the freedom to prosper in life, the freedom to participate in government and the freedom to peacefully co-exist that will bring us closer to becoming the “Beloved Community” that my father envisioned.”
In terms of diversity, Ms. King noted that the nation’s flagship Annual Commemorative Service in Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary on January 21, the MLK holiday, featured a keynote speech by Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which drew standing ovations. Describing himself “as a child of Dr. King’s Dream,’ Rev. Rodriguez told the crowd, “Silence is not an option when 30 million of our brothers and sisters live in poverty,” he said. “Silence is not an option when 11 million undocumented individuals continue to live in the shadows. And by the way, they are undocumented and not illegal. Because a human being made in the image of God cannot be illegal.” The service also included moving renditions of Dr. King’s entire 17 minute “I Have A Dream” speech by youth of different ethnic communities, along with messages honoring Dr. King by presenters from diverse religious and racial backgrounds, along with varied musical performances. Following the service, The King Center held a presidential inauguration “viewing party” in Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the ceremony was shown on a jumbotron video screen. Viewers watched as President Obama took the oath of office with his hand on the bibles of President Lincoln and Dr. King. The confluence of the inauguration, Dr. King’s Bible, Ebenezer and The Holiday was significant and symbolically powerful for those in attendance because it re-affirmed the connection of the moment to the movement led by Dr. King. In line with the global mission, The King Center’s Salute to Greatness Annual Awards Dinner, held on January 19, honored Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Professor Muhammad Yunus. Professor Yunus delivered an inspiring tribute to Dr. King and offered a challenge to eradicate poverty through creative reforms, and to build a world “where poverty is in the museum.” The King Center presented the Salute to Greatness Award for institutional excellence to Aflac, Inc., which is a corporate leader, not only in social responsible and community philanthropy, but also in representing Dr. King’s legacy in terms of workforce diversity.
Mr. Alec Loorz, a Ventura, CA youth activist, who organized young people across North America into an environmental coalition to stop global warming, delivered an inspiring acceptance speech on receiving the inaugural Coretta Scott King A.N.G.E.L. Award for individual achievement, which brought the nearly 1,500 persons attending the dinner to their feet. “I draw inspiration from the work of Dr. Martin Luther King and the movement that he led. I’m trying to organize young people to raise their voices about climate change and how to realize a vision for a sustainable, healthy society,” said Loorz.
An initiative called “100 Days of Nonviolence: The Birmingham Campaign” was awarded the A.N.G.E.L. Award for leadership in mobilizing youth to embrace nonviolence and reduce community violence, led by Birmingham City Councilman James “Jay” E. Roberson, Jr. who accepted the award. Roberson noted in his remarks that “the 100 Days of Nonviolence campaign concluded successfully on MLK Day 2011 and 2012 without one person under 18 dying as a result of violence.” The program is repeated annually. In another notable affirmation of diversity, the U.S. Immigration Services on Jan. 18 held a Naturalization Ceremony in The King Center’s Freedom Hall Auditorium. This ceremony swore in 35 new American citizens from 26 different countries.
The 2013 MLK Observance also included programs that emphasized nonviolence education and youth leadership development. In The King Youth Expo and Showcase on Jan. 12, young leaders demonstrated Dr. King’s spirit, philosophy and teachings through educational presentations, entertainment and inspirational performances, along with an on-site “Tweet Suite,” where young people discussed youth violence-prevention strategies. Other youth-focused events included: the Metropolitan Atlanta Violence Prevention Project Anti-bullying Rally on Jan. 15; the Kingian Nonviolence Collegiate Leadership Orientation (Jan. 16); and the Dream Art Contest Awards Ceremony on Jan. 19.
In other major events of the 10-day celebration, hundreds of Atlanta area people took advantage of the King Health and Wellness Fest on Jan. 12, which provided free health screenings and tests from medical professionals valued at approximately $3,000 per person, along with health workshops, demonstrations and exhibits. On the 16th, dozens of volunteers from The Home Depot and the ‘Be the Dream’ Committee spent the day working on landscape and facilities improvement at The King Center’s Freedom Hall Complex. On Jan. 17, King Center C.E.O. Bernice A. King addressed the State of Georgia Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council Program at The Georgia State Capitol. The King Center held a Book Signing event on Jan. 20 with members of different branches of the King family. Ms. King also addressed the King Holiday March and Rally on the holiday.
‘We are off to a wonderful start of our year-long observance of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” said Ms. King. “We look forward to making 2013 a year of unprecedented progress for educating people all over the world about my father’s leadership philosophy and teachings, and inspiring them to use what they learn to help build the Beloved Community. I hope everyone who wants to help fulfill the Dream will follow the King Center on twitter <https://twitter.com/KingCenterATL> @KingCenterATL and note our <https://twitter.com/search?q=%23KINGSDREAM&src=hash> #KINGSDREAM <https://twitter.com/search?q=%23IAMFREEDOM&src=hash> #IAMFREEDOM Campaigns,” she added.
For more information about the MLK birthday observance and the year-long commemoration of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, please visit <http://www.thekingcenter.org> www.thekingcenter.org.