Every year, people gather to celebrate the life and honor the work of Martin Luther King Jr. We remember the progress we’ve made during his life and since, but we are also encouraged to look for ways to continue to progress.
“Dr. King fought for the rights and dignity of all people,” said Marvin Royal, a member of the Gainesville ISD School Board. “His legacy inspires all to continue working toward a more just and equitable world.”
King was one of the leaders of the civil rights movement for over a decade, beginning in 1955 with him overseeing the Montgomery bus boycott and continuing until his assassination in 1968.
One of King’s most famous speeches was given as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 and would become known as his “I have a dream” speech.
During his life, King combatted racial inequality through nonviolent protests and gathering for open communication, leading to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
“I think one of the things about Martin Luther King that a lot of people forget that I love reminding people of is that he would meet in churches, he would meet in restaurants and places where you could fellowship,” said Gainesville City Council Member Keanna Franklin. “It’s important to get people together and get people on one accord because you need that for open communication. You can say speeches all day, but if nobody is willing to connect with you, if people don’t trust you, that message seems to not get too far … That’s why marching in remembrance, having a program and then, of course, always serving food afterwards is such a big part of MLK day.”
Cities and states started hosting annual holidays to honor King in 1971, with President Ronald Reagan creating a federal holiday to honor King in 1983 and the first official Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1986. Although President George H.W. Bush made a proclamation in 1992 that the holiday would be held on the third Monday of January each year, MLK day was not officially observed in all fifty states until 2000.
Nowadays, people recognize MLK Day as a day to remember how far we’ve come in civil rights, teach what King and others who fought for those rights went through to the next generation and recognize how there are still ways to improve and grow.
“Being able to educate kids and teach them remembrance. Where do they come from? How we can all be together at this time is super important,” said Franklin. “A lot of people reference the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and nor a lot of people talk about his legacy of him bringing people together.”
“By honoring Dr. King on MLK Day, it’s a consistent reminder,” said Royal. “We reaffirm our commitment to working toward a better future for all, especially our kids.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee in Gainesville plans an annual weekend of events in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This year’s plans were unfortunately canceled due to inclement weather. However, the Celebration Committee wanted to make sure all of this year’s scholarship and award recipients were honored and sponsors were recognized:
MLK Celebration Scholarship recipients — Rodney Simpson, Grayce Erwin, Preston Searcy, Yu Hsiou, Timoni Miley Solomon, Nikolas McBeth and Yonas Franklin.
MLK community award – James Barnard Lewis
MLK community business award – People’s Funeral Home
MLK milestone award – William Hendricks
MLK milestone business award – Chick-fil-a
Sponsors — Mt. Olive First Baptist, Auto Body Concepts, Otts Furniture, 4U Credit Union, Muenster State Bank, Old Mount Olive, St. James CME, Dieter Insurance, Sullivan Law, MLK Church of Christ, Antioch New Hope Missionary, David Moore, Quasar and Law Office of Phil Adams.