As we approach the birthday of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — Sunday, Jan. 15 — our community has much to anticipate as this federal holiday will be observed locally with an array of activities Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The theme for this year’s celebration is an appropriate one as it recognizes many humanitarian achievements since the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and ’60s, while also pointing to a future of continuing the dream so compassionately led by Dr. King.
Titled “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Mission Still to Fulfill,” the theme as recognized by the Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP calls for the remembrance of sacrifices by those who came before us, a celebration of their hard-fought victories and a continuation of the quest for a humanitarian’s dream.
What began in the early ’60s remains relevant today almost half-a-century since the legendary speech in Washington, D.C., that warmed America’s heart and opened her mind.
Local activities kick off Saturday at 9 a.m. with a free breakfast at the Bradley-Cleveland Senior Center on Urbane Road. The festive event will feature entertainment by Phylicia McCastle, Clayton Mason, award-winning tap dancer Damon Gillespie, Trinity Praise Dance Team and Jamaal Reynolds.
The breakfast is provided at no cost, but NAACP members are asking that attendees bring five canned goods that will be donated to a Cleveland food bank.
On Sunday, the celebration will continue with a Community Worship Service at 4 p.m. in the new Lee University Chapel at the corner of Ocoee and 11th streets. Guest speaker will be the Rev. Steve Caudle, pastor of Greater Second Missionary Baptist Church in Chattanooga. Music ministry will be provided by Billie Blair, Shirley Purifory, Demetrius Ramsey and Agape Center AOH Church of Athens.
Special tributes will be provided by various members of the Cleveland and Bradley County community.
On Monday, NAACP members invite area residents to follow in King’s footsteps by “hitting the streets” to lead a community service project. Those interested in participating should meet at the NAACP office at 9:30 a.m. for training and instruction. Project hours will be 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On Monday evening, beginning at 7 p.m., the Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP will partner with 100 Black Men of Bradley County and Lee University to host the Annual Dream Keeper Award Ceremony at Lee University’s Conn Center.
Keynote speaker will be evangelist Ingrid Hart with music provided by the Lee University Evangelistic Singers.
Dream Keeper Award recipients are minority students in the Cleveland City and Bradley County School systems who have maintained a 3.0 grade point average or above in grades seven through 12 through this year’s first semester.
The coming weekend promises to be filled with exciting festivities, thoughtful remembrances and inspiring messages from Saturday morning’s senior center breakfast to Monday evening’s Dream Keeper gathering.
We hope our hometown residents will attend as many of these thoughtful events as possible.
Each will remember a man. But most importantly, all are made possible by a man’s dream.