For 34 years, the local club named in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has held an event to mark the January holiday named in his honor.
This year — the 35th edition of the program — the day will be celebrated with its usual fanfare by the local club revering the late civil rights leader.
The local MLK Jr. Club is hosting an event in downtown Fort Wayne in honor of the holiday, but more importantly, the man. Entitled, “Was the DREAM Real? The 35th Annual Dr. King Unity Day Celebration,” the program will be held on Jan. 20 at the Grand Wayne Convention Center, 120 W. Jefferson Blvd.
The leader of the local MLK Club noted that the event is more than just a memorial for a civil rights icon.
“We must learn to live together in these times,” said Bennie Edwards, club president. “We need to get all citizens of Fort Wayne to live together in harmony and peace and understand that this is the right of all citizens.”
The lineup for the program, which lasts from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., is long and varied.
Local physician Dr. Rudy Kachmann will give a presentation on diabetes and its prevention.
The event also will feature music from two gospel choirs. Uplifting music from the Pilgrim Baptist Church and the Greater Progressive Baptist Church will fill the cavernous spaces of the downtown convention center, Edwards noted.
Also on tap for the event: Step dancing performances by youngsters from the Weisser Park Center. The kids’ dancing will be coordinated by Adrian Perry.
Atlanta-based author Nic Stone will be there, as well, discussing her book, “Dear Martin,” a New York Times bestseller written as a journal crafted by a young black teenager named Justyce McAllister who is able to leave his rough neighborhood behind, but finds he can’t escape the scorn of his former friends, or the ridicule of his new companions.
Justyce begins to look to the lessons of King to find out for himself, crafting a journal to the late icon in a search for his own answers.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry will be in attendance to make an official proclamation of Jan. 20 as Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Fort Wayne.
The program also will offer health screenings performed by nurses from Parkview Hospital, giving attendees free checks of blood pressure and general health.
The event also will see the presentation of awards for several dignitaries, including Diana Jackson Davis, Lewis King of the local 10-Point Coalition, Chuck Surack of Sweetwater Sound, and Joe Jordan, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne.
Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday to honor the work of the civil rights leader, who was slain in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968. It was first endorsed as a holiday in several U.S. cities and states in 1971, but didn’t become an official U.S. federal holiday until 1986.
Sponsors of the program include Old National Bank, First Federal Credit Union, American Electric Power, NIPSCO and Calico. Cost for the local program’s admission is $10 for adults, and $5 for those 18 and younger.
Money raised through admissions goes toward the MLK club and to fund scholarships for local students, Edwards said.
The day — and the local event — are about more than just remembering King’s life, Edwards said.
“This is keeping the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King alive and well,” Edwards said, “and it’s promoting diversity and harmony through the life and legacy of Dr. King and his philosophies.”
For more information, call 260-493-1534.