Valdosta-Lowndes County’s 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. celebration begins early in the New Year.
The Valdosta/Lowndes County MLK Jr. Commemoration Association hosts its 29th Annual Founder’s Banquet, 6:30 p.m., Jan. 4, James H. Rainwater Conference Center. This year’s theme plays upon the recent half-century anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington. The Founder’s Banquet theme: “After 50 Years, What Has Happened to the Dream?”
The banquet will feature keynote speaker the Rev. Dr. Perry Simmons Jr., pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, Newark, N.J. A Cairo, Ga., native, Simmons has served in many churches during his nearly 50 years of ministry, including Macedonia Baptist Church, Valdosta; Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Hahira; Mt. Hope Baptist Church, Quitman.
He is an author whose books include “Have You Got Good Religion?” “The Importance of Establishing a Black Christian Family” and “Black Man, Where Art Thou?”
Mara Register, former City of Valdosta assistant to the city manager, presents “A Candle in the Dark.”
The banquet kicks off a month of events to commemorate King’s life and legacy which includes:
• 3 p.m., Jan. 19, a commemoration program will be held at St. Paul A.M.E. Church, 419 S. Ashley St., with keynote speaker Elder Elizabeth Brown Yates, presiding elder of the Alachua Central District.
• 11 a.m., Jan. 20, the youth program will be held at Mathis City Auditorium, 2300 N. Ashley St., with keynote speakers Nasier A. Vazquez and Valious Smith. A luncheon to follow.
Born Jan. 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. rose to prominence during the civil rights era. Using Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent methods of civil disobedience, King led demonstrations to protest inequality in the lives of black citizens in the South and throughout the United States.
As a young preacher, King’s work truly began in the mid-1950s when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery bus. King became a leader of the 385-day Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The boycott set a pattern for his civil-rights work: He gained great prominence but with terrible consequences. As he rose to national recognition during the bus boycott, he also suffered the bombing of his house.
He would become honored and jailed. King received the Nobel Peace Prize but he endured the violence of Selma. He preached “I have a dream,” while people attempted to silence him. He would practice love but be the focus of hate.
He lived for the Declaration of Independence’s American promise that all men are created equal. On April 4, 1968, he died for that ideal, killed by an assassin’s bullet on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tenn.