Community members have commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. day with a parade for many years. | File

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Community members prepare for Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations

Published 2:43pm Friday, January 11, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is quickly approaching, and community members have planned the annual series of events to accompany the holiday.

“It’s a day where the community can come together,” said Teresa Moten. “This is everybody’s history.”

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day committee has planned a Youth Summit, a prayer breakfast, a parade and a program to bring the community together in celebration of King.

The Youth Summit will be Jan. 12 from 1–4 p.m.

“It’s just entertainment … to give back to the youth of the community, for them to come out and explore and show their talents and just have a good time,” said Alisa Norris, committee president. “It’s going to be real nice.”

Norris said all ages are welcome to attend the summit, and admission is free. The summit will feature speaker Michael Goggans, praise dancers and performers from Alabama State University and Troy University.

The summit will be held in the gym at Stephens Elementary School, as well the prayer breakfast, which will be held Jan. 19 at 8 a.m.

“We’re expecting to have a good time,” Norris said. “Just come and look for good food and good entertainment … Come with your dancing shoes on. We’re going to praise God – that’s what we’re going to do.”

Prayer breakfast admission is $10. Moten said attendees will participate in prayers of love, peace and unity.

Jan. 21 events will include a 9 a.m. parade leaving from Stephens Elementary School, in which anyone is welcome to participate, followed by Prayer Around the Pole and an 11 a.m. program. The program will feature a motivational speaker and other activities.

“We’re expecting to have a high time in the Lord,” Norris said. “We welcome everybody to come and be with us on that day.”

King Day celebrations are a long-standing tradition in Alexander City – but not as long as some might think.

The federal holiday passed into law in 1983. It was in 1989 that a group of citizens asked the school board to incorporate the holiday into the school calendar and support community activities to commemorate the day.

“We were all doing community type things,” said Beverly White, one of the founding members of Co-Pace. “It wasn’t something that we actually set out to do, it was just something that came up during that time of the year.”

Co-Pace, or Concerned Parents for Academic and Community Excellence, had formed in 1987 to improve the community, particularly focusing on empowering black children in the school system.

“Our city compared to Atlanta and some other places was just a little behind the times,” White said.

Moten said the school board at first considered making King Day a teacher workday, but community members asked that it be a full holiday.

“We wanted some of the teachers to be there too,” Moten said. “We want more teacher participation – I know it’s a day off for them too, but I think if the students could see their teachers there learning the history and being a part of what’s going on in the community, that would give the teachers a better rapport with the students and give them something to talk about as far as class lessons.”

White said she was excited to see the community events and the holiday come to fruition.

“We had a parade,” White said. “I was not sure what kind of participation we’d have because it was going to be an early morning parade in the winter … I just felt proud to be a part of it. I really felt the pride as if we were there with Coretta Scott King.”

Community members involved in the King Day celebrations said it’s all about community unity.

“We need to be together – black and white, it doesn’t matter,” Norris said. “We need to make brotherly love continue in our community and let it spread abroad. We don’t need to let Martin Luther King down … It’s important that we continue what we started. Now is not the time to quit – we still have a long way to go.”