Local organizations are continuing the tradition of honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his work and ongoing dream through a series of events across town.
The Bradley County NAACP announced plans to hold a three-day celebration in honor of King. The theme for the events will be “Salute to Greatness.” According to a press release, the organizers’ goal is to “ignite the spirit of service, action and achievement.”
The first event will be a prayer breakfast held Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Bradley Cleveland Senior Center. Organizer RaSharon King described the meeting as an opportunity for community members to gather and hear a motivational speaker.
“We hope to draw the community in and inspire them to pursue the dream,” King said. “The dream is for all people, regardless of race, religion or stance, to all have equality in education, in pay, in housing and in the workplace.”
She said MLK’s dream has not been fully recognized yet.
There is no cost for the breakfast. Instead, the NAACP requests those who attend bring at least five canned goods items. The food will be donated to the Cleveland Emergency Shelter. Shaquana Kennedy, a United States probation officer and past Dream Keeper award recipient, will be the speaker.
King said Kennedy was chosen in an effort to reach both the youth and adults of the community.
She added, “She serves as an example for kids to see you can achieve your dream in spite of your situation.”
The celebration will continue on Sunday with a Community Worship Service at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. The service will begin at 4 p.m. The master of ceremonies will be the Rev. James Parris, pastor of Star Bethel Baptist Church in Etowah. The speaker will be minister Timothy Purifory from Christian Fellowship Center.
Purifory is expected to offer an “inspiring word” from the pulpit.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be a time of service in honor of its namesake and an opportunity to celebrate the future.
The NAACP invited the community to join the service effort at the Cleveland Emergency Shelter from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students in high school and college are also encouraged to attend. The press release said the service project presents a great time to gain service hours.
The project will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
King explained MLK’s holiday is not a time to sit idle.
“Dr. King’s holiday has had a service theme,” she said. “I share his name and his vision. I can’t sit down and do nothing.”
The final event will be the Annual Dream Keeper Award Ceremony hosted by the Bradley County NAACP in partnership with the 100 Black Men of Bradley County, the Ministerial Association and Lee University at 6 p.m. in the Conn Center.
Parents, middle school students and high school students often look forward to the event. King said it is a time to recognize minority students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
More information on the weekend celebration can be found by contacting King at 423-987-3356.
Additional events are being conducted by the Tennessee Christian Preparatory School and Cleveland State Community College.
TCPS President Dr. Bill Balzano announced students will complete private service projects and attend a special presentation by educator and Pastor Ron Hill.
“Our school leadership felt that most people simply take a day off on MLK’s birthday; though schools, and some businesses, close, it appears that very few actively honor the man and his legacy,” Balzano said. “We decided to have a special program honoring Dr. King and then a morning of service in honor of King and our community.”
Cleveland State is set to host Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Jan. 23, in a special Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration program.
Hrabowski was reputed to be a child leader in the Civil Rights Movement and was featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, “Four Little Girls.” The film focused on the “racially motivated” bombing of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963.
According to a press release from Cleveland State, President Barack Obama recently announced Hrabowski’s appointment to the newly created President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the George R. Johnson Cultural Heritage Center on the CSCC campus.