Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday – what would have been his 85th – is next Wednesday (Jan. 15th), with the federal holiday observed on Jan. 20th.
Myriad observances and events are planned throughout Greater Memphis. Mayor A C Wharton Jr. is calling on Memphians to "Be the Dream" during a weekend of reflection and service honoring Dr. King's legacy.
"His work was bigger than civil rights; his mission field was wider than America," Wharton said. "His message was broader than one for minorities alone. He belonged to all of us, and for this weekend we will celebrate this universal, enduring legacy."
On Monday, Jan. 20, the MLK Commemorative Celebration will be held from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the historic Mason Temple, where King delivered his famous "Mountaintop" speech, his last. He was killed the next day, April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
The celebration will include the presentation of the 2014 Be the Dream MLK Legacy Awards. Among the honorees will be the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, civil rights leader and executive director of Rainbow-PUSH Memphis; Russell Sugarmon, judge and founder of the Shelby County Democratic Club; Jocelyn Wurzburg, attorney and author of Tennessee's Fair Employment Practices Law; Father Don Mowery, former executive director of Youth Service Memphis; Dr. James L. Netters, civil rights leader and longest serving pastor of a single church in Memphis; civil rights activist Fred Davis; and National Civil Rights Museum President Beverly Robertson.
Noting the national holiday's designation as a day of service, Wharton is encouraging all residents to either join existing service projects or submit their own at www.bethedreammemphis.com.
"If you want to see where Dr. King still lives, look around you," Wharton said. "He lives in the hearts of neighbors who extend themselves to help people in need; the outlooks of youth whose visions are not clouded by racial inferiority; and the minds of people who work diligently to bring us together as one people and one city."
Be the Dream MLK Weekend will kick off Jan. 18 with a Youth Symposium from noon to 3 p.m. at the Cook Convention Center. Area teens will be given resources to guide their search for summer employment and post-secondary education as well as career planning. Teens ages 15 to 19 can register for the symposium at www.bethedreammemphis.com.
Here is a partial list of other events:
National Civil Rights Museum
Jan. 15 – "When the Prophet Speaks, noon-1 p.m., Freedom's Sisters Building, 115 Huling at Mulberry. Guest speaker: Dr. Andre Johnson, the Dr. James L. Netters Associate Professor of Rhetoric & Religion and African American Studies at Memphis Theological Seminary. (This is part of the museum's free monthly Lunch & Learn Program. Bring Your Own Lunch.)
Jan. 20 – Annual King Day celebration, with the theme "Peace, Love and Freedom." Family activities will include storytelling, children's arts/crafts, dramatic and musical performances, a live DJ, local radio stations, social media tent, tribute to Freedom Award winners, and a preview of the Lorraine Motel exhibit renovations. Door prizes and food vendors on site.
Tours of the museum boarding house exhibits and the "Freedom Sisters" exhibit will be available from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. No balcony tours. Admission for all activities: $3.
Receive $1 off King Day admission by bringing canned good donations to the King Day Food Drive, or receive free admission for up to 4 people by donating a pint of blood to Life Blood Mid-South Regional Mobile and Centers.
The annual event is presented by Ford Motor Company with support from Macy's Foundation and ServiceMaster. For more info, call Barbara Andrews, 901-521-9699 x2223. #KingDay2014
Jan. 20 – The LeMoyne-Owen College's Memphis Alumni Chapter hosts the 23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Memphis Airport Conference Center. This year's breakfast is dedicated to the LOC students who organized and participated in sit-ins during the civil rights movement and to the sanitation workers and other supporters who participated in the pivotal 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Willie W. Herenton, a member of the LeMoyne-Owen College class of 1963, the first African-American selected superintendent of Memphis City Schools and the first elected as mayor of Memphis.
Dr. Herenton also participated in the Sanitation Workers Strike, marching with the workers and wearing the historic "I Am A Man" sign.
"That experienced shaped me into the man I am today," Herenton said. "I have deep feelings about that experience and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole and look forward to sharing my personal perspective on the impact of that pivotal time in American history."
Jan. 17 – The Bridges Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration will be from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Bridges Center at 477 N. Fifth Street. Students in grades 6-12 will participate in an interactive exploration of Dr. King's life.
Representatives from community service organizations will detail service projects that are available on MLK Day and local food trucks will be. Registration is required. Admission is $10.
For more information, visit bridgesusa.org or call 901-452-5600.