By Steven D. Manning
The largest Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in the state of Indiana lived up to its name Jan. 20 as a record crowd attended the annual event honoring the slain civil rights activist.
Club President Bennie Edwards said, “I am very pleased with the turn out at both the Breakfast with the Clergy at the Courtyard by Marriott and the MLK Unity Day Celebration at the Grand Wayne Convention Center.”
He said, “it’s probably the largest turn out at both events that we have ever had” adding that “the community showed their overwhelming support for the Clergy of the Year selection, Dr. Luther Whitfield. It was a great feeling to see how this event (Breakfast with the Clergy) has evolved over the last six years.
There were 210 people at the breakfast and approximately a thousand people at the Unity Day program from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The ongoing performances, which featured choirs, soloists, and dancers, held the audience’s attention the entire time. Keynote speaker Dr. Carl Mack delivered a powerful message that kept the audience mesmerized.
The tribute to Fort Wayne’s own civil rights veteran George Smith was sobering and inspirational. Smith, who passed away several months ago, served on the Board of Directors for the MLK Club and was heavily involved with national organizations in the civil rights struggle.
MLK Club Vice President and Program Director, Fran Grant said people who attended used words like “magnificent,” “awesome” and “wonderful,” when describing the all day Dr. King Unity Day event. She said the keynote speaker at the breakfast, Pastor Ken Christmon, and the Unity Day keynote speaker, Dr. Carl Mack were inspirational and encouraging. Dr. Mack invited engineering students from Indiana Tech on the stage to stress the importance of higher education and careers in engineering. Mack is a top engineer and former president of the Seattle Branch NAACP.
A major portion of the program focused on young people. Four high school seniors received $1,000 scholarships. And, diversity was duly noted when a large group of white students from Leo High School took the stage twice for their musical mime routines.
MLK Club officials say next year, the 30th anniversary for the event, will be the biggest ever. Input from the community is welcome.
Edwards said, “The next MLK Club event is the Civil Rights Tour to Birmingham Alabama to attend the Civil Rights celebrations in that city this June, which will include visits to the 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelley Ingram Park and the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum. The museum is said to be one of the best in the nation and we will spend one night in Birmingham. We will then move on to Meridian, Miss., (George Smith’s hometown). We will spend two nights in that city and attend the 50th Anniversary of the Caravan for Justice. People come from all over the country to attend this event every year. Being the 50th, this will be huge.”
If you have an interest in joining the Martin Luther King Club on this historic bus adventure, give Bennie a call soon at (260) 760-6867.
Steven D. Manning is president and CEO of Manning Video Productions LLC. He can be reached at (260) 247-25117.