January 15, 2014

King’s dream still relevant today

Great social, political and economic change doesn’t just happen, it takes a movement and a leader with tremendous courage, determination and faith.

Mid-20th century America had that in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose efforts changed bad laws and attitudes and placed this country on a better course.

Monday is a day set aside to reflect on what this man’s compelling message meant — and still means — to this nation. And here in Dalton there are several events planned to celebrate the civil rights leader’s life and legacy.

Things already have gotten underway. This past weekend we had a day of musical celebration with the Gospel Explosion, after which three students received a Martin Luther King Jr. Award in recognition of their leadership and activism in the social justice arena.

On Saturday, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. banquet will be at the Mack Gaston Community Center in Dalton with James R. Mapp as guest speaker. Mapp is the president of the Chattanooga Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and former head of the Tennessee NAACP. More significantly, the man has been involved in the civil rights movement for 65 years and is a witness to efforts bringing equality to the nation. He also was instrumental in integrating public schools in Chattanooga.

The banquet is open to the public. Tickets are available through Thursday for $25 at the community center, Fast Foto on Hamilton Street or by calling Joan McGovern at (706) 529-6974.

On Sunday, the Concerned Clergy of Greater Whitfield County will observe its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Ecumenical Service at the community center beginning at 4 p.m. This year’s featured speaker is Bishop Randy Parker of Douglasville, senior pastor of Greater Mount Olive Overcoming Church of God. The service will also feature the Northwest Georgia Community Choir.

And on MLK Day at 9 a.m., Pastor Erma Raymond of Bethel AME Church will speak at the memorial wreath-laying ceremony at the intersection of East Walnut Avenue and MLK Jr. Boulevard. About an hour later at the community center, area residents are invited to a free breakfast and message from Pastor Pat Gross of Grace Fellowship Ministries.

Tying in with the MLK Day observance, which is also a Day of Service, from noon to 3 p.m. the United Way of Northwest Georgia is holding the Economic Opportunity Expo and Culture Fest. This event features career and financial management resources from the Georgia Department of Labor, Dalton State College School of Business and Wells Fargo, the event sponsor.

The Culture Fest will also feature crafts and activities for children from different countries. All of the Monday events are free.

These activities, created for all of the community, are meant to honor the message of one of the most prominent, influential and respected Georgians who ever lived.

King would have turned 84 this month had he not been assassinated in 1968 at age 39. We do him and his dream proud when we share in his remembrance.

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