Diverse King Center observes Martin Luther King’s 84th birthday

Events kick off year-long celebration of 50th anniversary of ‘I Have A Dream’ speech

Pictured left to right: seated on the podium at Ebenezer Baptist Church at the M L King Birthday Observance are Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Dr. Christine King Farris, vice chair/treasurer of the Board of Trustees of The King Center and sister of Dr. King; Ms. Elizabeth Omilami, director of Hosea Feed the Hungry and daughter of Hosea Williams; Bernice A. King, CEO of The King Center and daughter of Dr. King (at the podium); Mr. John Lee, president, Korea, USA Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Lisa Rhodes, dean of Sister’s Chapel, director of the Sister Center of Wisdom Spelman College; and Dr. Joseph M. Ripley, pastor of The Body of Christ International, USA (who presented the invocation).

ATLANTA, Ga. — The King Center held a 10-day program, beginning Jan. 12, commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 84th birthday. It reflected the Civil Rights leader’s impassioned advocacy of diversity, nonviolence and youth activism in challenging the nation to fulfill his dream. The Center organized and co-presented 14 events during the 2013 MLK observance that served as a kicked off for a yearlong celebration of Dr. King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.

“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.

“The 50th Anniversary celebration will engage people of all races, religions, nations and diverse organizations to respond to a global call to action,” said M. King.

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. He described 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. 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 jumbo-tron 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 annual Salute to Greatness Awards Dinner honored Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Professor Muhammad Yunus. Professor Yunus gave a 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.”

Alec Loorz, a Ventura, Calif. youth activist, who organized young people across North America into an environmental coalition to stop global warming, received the inaugural Coretta Scott King A.N.G.E.L. Award.

In notable affirmation of diversity, the U.S. Immigration Services 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, young leaders demonstrated Dr. King’s spirit, philosophy and teachings through educational presentations, entertainment and inspirational performances.

In other major events of the 10-day celebration, hundreds of Atlanta area people took advantage of the King Health and Wellness Fest, which provided free health screenings and tests from medical professionals valued at approximately $3,000 per person, along with health workshops, demonstrations and exhibits. 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. 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.

For more information about the MLK birthday observance and year-long commemoration of Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, visit www.thekingcenter.org.