First up is the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Keeper Award Ceremony set for the Lee University Dixon Center on Thursday at 6 p.m. Two days later, the Annual Community Breakfast, which also celebrates the legacy of the slain civil rights activist, will begin at 9 a.m. in the Cleveland State Foundation Room located in the Student Center.
Both key events were originally scheduled for January in observance of the MLK Day holiday, but were postponed due to hazardous travel conditions caused by an earlier winter storm. Each was delayed to February to coincide with Black History Month.
In a lower key celebration over the weekend, but one that actually kicked off a series of Black History Month observances, was a birthday gathering for Ed Johnson, the oldest African-American male in Bradley County. Johnson turned 101 last Thursday and Saturday afternoon his grown children and their families hosted a two-hour celebration at Golden Corral restaurant. The Dutch-treat dinner was open to the community and was also an opportunity for area residents and friends to drop in and offer their best wishes to the centenarian.
The native Bradley Countian, the oldest of 19 children, was raised on a farm in the Eureka community outside of Charleston.
Johnson will be featured in the “Personality Profile” in the Feb. 14 edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.
The MLK Dream Keeper Award Ceremony honors area youth who have given valuable service to the Cleveland and Bradley County community. The celebration is co-sponsored by the Minister’s Fellowship of Cleveland and Bradley County, the Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP and 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc.
The trio of organizations are partnering with Lee University to host the service which also will celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King. Musical selections will be provided by the Cleveland High School Gospel Choir under the direction of Rodney Gipson.
Included in the program is the presentation of the Dream Keeper Award. This presentation is made each year to selected African-American students, grades 6 through 12, who maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average or better. Student recipients represent the Cleveland City and Bradley County School systems.
Conceived in 1993 by the Ministers Fellowship, formerly known as the Black Ministers’ Fraternity, the award is provided in cooperation with the two local school systems. Dr. Michael Laney of Lee University, who serves in a key planning role with the Dream Keeper Award, said the original idea behind the ceremony is to recognize middle and high school students who promote and honor academic achievement.
“The name of the award was chosen to commemorate Dr. King and his articulation of a dream, one for a better future for all citizens — Dream Keeper,” according to a news release provided to the Cleveland Daily Banner. “The first award was granted in 1994. Then by the following year, the event had outgrown the largest church building in the community, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, and was moved to the Dixon Center.”
Keynote speaker for the Dream Keeper Award will be the Rev. Vincent Jackson, program manager for First Helping Street Outreach at D.C. Central Kitchen in Washington, D.C. First Helping is a street-level outreach program “that aims to empower and assist homeless and low-income individuals by providing food and building relationships,” according to the news release.
More information about the Dream Keeper Award Ceremony may be obtained by contacting Laney at 423-614-8229 or e-mail email@example.com.
Less than 48 hours after the Dream Keeper celebration, the dream moves to Cleveland State for the Annual Community Breakfast on Saturday morning at 9. This year’s theme is “Dream the Change, Lead the Change, Be the Change.”
Keynote speaker is Ronald Harris, head of Corporate Diversity at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
Although the event is free and open to the community, those planning to attend should RSVP by calling 423-614-6946, according to Holly Vincent, public information coordinator for Cleveland State.
Traditionally held on the CSCC campus, the community breakfast is a joint effort between CSCC, the Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP and the Tau Eta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Along with his Corporate Diversity role at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Harris is also a member of the BlueCross BlueShield Association Diversity Alliance. He has been featured in “African American Career World” magazine and “Equal Opportunity Publication.” He is a past recipient of the Community Choice Award for Advancements in Diversity from the Chattanooga African-American Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a milestone and it’s a perfect opportunity for Americans to honor Dr. King’s legacy through service,” said Natalia Williams, coordinator of diversity student programs for CSCC in a news release statement.