By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY — The spirit, sacrifice and commitment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was remembered by young and old, black and white in New Albany Tuesday.
From city leaders to school children, the doors were open at the Kathy Wilkerson Recreation Center to celebrate the life of King.
“It’s a privilege to live in the shadow of Dr. King and his dream because he was such a trailblazer, especially his message on equality and non violence,” said Rev. Tony Torran, pastor of the Galatian Missionary Baptist Church in New Albany. “I think that it’s very important, and we need a reminder of how important it is to love one another and respect one another.”
Torran was one of the ministers who took part in the event, which was titled “Learning from the Past; Preparing for the Future”. The ceremony marked the third annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration sponsored by The Community Women for Unity and Equality.
King was a civil rights activist who was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. by James Earl Ray. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday observed on the third Monday in January to commemorate his Jan. 15 birth date.
This year, the holiday will be celebrated on Monday.
A group of community children provided a welcoming introduction for the event in New Albany, and organizers of the program said it’s incumbent to pass on the memory of King to future generations.
“We want to encourage the kids to participate because we’ll be off the scene in a few years, and it’s important for them to carry on the legacy of Dr. King,” said Marcia Booker, president of The Community Women for Unity and Equality.
The dinner program included prayer, scripture readings and remarks from various community leaders and the keynote speaker, Dr. Victor McKinney, pastor of Howard Chapel Baptist Church in New Albany.
City officials, including Mayor Jeff Gahan and council members Diane McCartin-Benedetti and Shirley Baird, attended the event.
“We have a nice turnout despite the chilly weather, and we have an excellent program, and it’s become a tradition every year I look forward to,” Gahan said of the event.
The New Albany Parks Department donated the building space for the event, and interim Parks Director Kathy Wilkerson credited The Community Women for Unity and Equality for their commitment to honoring King.
“It’s a great opportunity for citizens to come together, and I hope it continues for years and years,” she said.
When King was pushing for equality during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, people were dealing with poverty and strife in ways almost unheard of today, Wilkerson added.
For example, many people had to be creative about their meals or just not eat, and the parks department is sponsoring an event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to serve as a reminder of those hard times.
The program is called “Poor People’s Freedom Brunch”, and will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Kathy Wilkerson Recreation Center.
“We want people to realize how much better life is because of Dr. King,” Wilkerson said.