It’s easy to take for granted things with which you were born. There will always be a collective feeling of gratitude for the efforts of leaders and participants of the Civil Rights Movement, but to many, it may seem like a distant glimmer in our nation’s checkered past. It’s hard to fathom that the streets that we walk were once alive with the struggle and triumph of the Civil Rights Movement.
On Jan. 20, the nation celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King — one of the most significant leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King was born and raised in Atlanta, so there will be many events and activities to commemorate his life and accomplishments.
“The theme for the Martin Luther King holiday is remember, celebrate and act on Dr. Kings dream,” said Steve Klein, Director of Communications at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (“The King Center”).
The King Center, located in the Sweet Auburn District, a historically African-American neighborhood, oozes with the character and charm of the old South sprinkled with original homes and historic landmarks. The historic site is operated by the National Park Service and includes a museum featuring film and an exhibition of photos documenting Dr. King’s leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. Part of the center is also up the street from Dr. King’s birth home and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father served as pastors.
“This being a major anniversary year we are calling for students all across America to get involved in events and community service to honor Dr. King in a meaningful way, and we hope the students at Georgia State will participate,” said Klein.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil rights Act and of Dr. King’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize. In observance of the Martin Luther King Holiday, The King Center will be will hosting and co-sponsoring events starting Friday, Jan. 10 leading up to the holiday.
Salute to Greatness
“The Annual salute to Greatness dinner is one of the highlights of the Holiday, and one of the only events we are charging for,” said Klein/ “It is The King Centers primary fundraiser and will be held Saturday the 18th at the Hyatt Regency.”
The King Center’s annual ‘Salute to Greatness Awards Dinner’ will be held at Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency Hotel Centennial Ballroom. This event attracted a modest 2,000 guest last year and is promised to be filled to the brim with trailblazers and humanitarians in their best red carpet attire. The Center’s major fundraising event will honor former heavyweight champion and humanitarian Muhammad Ali and the Xerox Corporation.
The MLK, Jr. Annual Commemorative Service
Another Highlight of the Center’s Observance of the holiday is the Annual Commemorative Service at Martin Luther King’s own Ebenezer Baptist Church. Started as a celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King by his wife Coretta Scott King, the service supersedes the national holiday and has grown to be the flagship worship service for the country.
“This year on Monday the 20th the sermon will be delivered by Reverend Dr. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock, the (current) pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church,” said Klein. “He is one of the most noted social gospel preachers in the country and it seems appropriate that we give him this because this is a year of significant anniversaries.”
The King Center is not the only place that students can celebrate Dr. King’s Legacy. Georgia State’s office of Intercultural Relations will be leading the Martin Luther King Series on campus.
“We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and our theme Advancing the Dream and Elevating Social Justice takes Dr. Kings Dream to the next level,” said Tonya Cook.
There will be events starting on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King’s birthday, with Feed Your Senses: Dance Tribute to Dr. King at the Rialto Center, and will meet on the 24th with The House of Blues series presented by Spotlight Programs Board.
“Our school is so diverse it is important to produce events that are going to attract our diverse students to bring that unity on campus,” said Katie Bauser, vice president of Spotlight Programs Board and junior sociology major at Georgia State.
Spotlight Events will be hosting two events for the MLK series. The first will be a Fast and Furious-themed Panther Prowl that will feature drive simulators, race bumper car and a corner dedicated to the celebration of Dr. King with a poetry corner and dream board.
“I think that getting students come together and write their dreams down on the dream boards will give the students a chance to speak their mind and honor Dr. King,” said Bauser.
Spotlight will also be hosting GSU House of Blues, modeled after the historically rich and diverse original House of Blues. Georgia State’s House of Blues will feature Spoken Word artist G Yamazsma as a host as well as artists Natalie Stovall, Suite 709 and Rayvon Ownes. Spotlight hopes to represent the diversity yearned for by Dr. King by created an audibly diverse mash-up of artist and genres.
Spotlight is not the only student organization or office that The Office of Intercultural relations is collaborating with during this series. The list of sponsors and participants is a true testament to the diversity present at Georgia State.
Lunch and Learn
“The dream is evident at Georgia State, we have one of the most diverse groups of people receiving an education at one of the best research Universities in the South,” said Kwabena Agyemang, President of the International Student Associations Council(ISAC) and senior double major in sociology and philosophy at Georgia State.
Kwabena’s organization ISAC recognizes that Dr. King efforts have made it possible for the organization to be in existence today.
“Everything that he did centered around one goal which was to truly prosper as a nature we need to be tolerant of other cultures. If he [Dr. King] didn’t do what he did there wouldn’t be an ISAC,” said Agyemang. “It allowed all of us future leaders of different backgrounds to come together and work toward a common goal.”
ISAC will be hosting a Lunch and Learn event to honor Dr. King by discussing the effect his accomplishments have had on international education.
31st Annual convocation
The 31st Annual Convocation is the crown jewel of events during the Martin Luther King series. Held in the Student Center Ballroom, this event is free and open to the public and will feature a keynote speech by poet Richard Blanco. It will also serve as the award ceremony for 2014 MLK Torch of Peace and Hosea Williams Award winners.
“I would love for student, faculty, staff and the community to attend the events and pick up some of the literature that we will have available at MLK Convocation to get involved in furthering the dream. We still have work to do to build better communities for humanity and for all,” said Cook.
Martin Luther King Day comes to us students at a difficult time. Just a week after returning from Christmas break it so tempting to write it off as just another vacation day and shrink back into that comfortable nook we became accustomed to over break. With too many events and community service oppurtuntues available this MLK holiday there is essentially no excuse not to get involved to honor Dr. King.