Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday – what would have been his 85th – was Wednesday (Jan. 15th), with the federal holiday set to be observed on Monday (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.
Here is a partial list of scheduled events:
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.
City of Memphis (“Be the Dream”)
Jan. 18 – Be the Dream MLK Weekend will kick off 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.
Jan. 20 – The MLK Commemorative Celebration will be held from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the historic Mason Temple. The celebration will include the presentation of the 2014 Be the Dream MLK Legacy Awards. Among the honorees: 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’ 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, Mayor AC Wharton Jr. is encouraging all residents to either join existing service projects or submit their own at www.bethedreammemphis.com.
Jan. 20: The Rev. Luther Williams, president of the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association, will be the keynote speaker as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Memphis commemorates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at 2 p.m. at Cane Creek Baptist Church, 1785 Bellevue.
The theme for the event is “Peace, Education & Empowerment.” Other participants: Mayor A C Wharton Jr., Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr., Shelby County Dist. Atty. Amy Weirich, Mark E. Russell, managing editor of The Commercial Appeal.
Special guests: David Durkee, International President, Bakers Confectionery Tobacco & Grain Millers Union and locked-out Kellogg workers.
Rainbow PUSH Coalition
Jan. 20 – The Rainbow PUSH Coalition began celebrating the life and legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. years before it became a national holiday and will continue that celebration on Monday (Jan. 20) at 11 a.m. at Monumental Baptist Church located at 704 South Parkway East.
The Rev. Lasimba Gray, president of PUSH Memphis, has spearheaded a special tribute to the Rev. Samuel B. Kyles, founder of PUSH Memphis and the group's President Emeritus. The celebration will bring speakers from the community as well as music from individuals and groups who have supported Rainbow PUSH Memphis and this event through the years, including Deborah Thomas and The Memphis Peacemakers.
"We stand on the shoulders of many, however, during this celebration, we always reflect on the contributions made by the late Dr. Martin L. King and the special addition this year is our tribute to Rev. Samuel B. Kyles, who has paved the way in this community and beyond for all peoples who find themselves in situations of poverty and discrimination," said Gray.
The event is open to the public.
National Civil Rights Museum
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 onsite.
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.
Guests will be treated to a recently discovered interview recording of Dr. King that will be played in the courtyard throughout the day. The recording was donated to the museum in July by magician David Copperfield. King Day will mark the first day the recording will be publicly broadcast at the museum.
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 Memphis Hotel, 2625 Thousand Oaks Blvd. 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."
The College of Aspiring Artists
Jan. 20 – The online campus of The College of Aspiring Artists opens in conjunction with the MLK Holiday. Dubbed "Feel the Movement," the theme for the day's salute is "From Prophecy to Promise."
The day's events are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at historic Mason Temple, at 930 Mason St., where Dr. King delivered "Mountaintop," his final speech on the evening of April 3, 1968 – the day before his assassination at the Lorraine Motel.
Church of God in Christ Bishop Dr. Rance Allen, national recording and award winning artist, will deliver the keynote tribute to Dr. King. Former Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton will provide the pioneer salute marking the occasion.
The Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site will present the Rev. Stephen A. Ferguson of Atlanta, who will do an reenactment of Dr. King's "Mountaintop" address. Ferguson has been licensed to perform as Dr. King by Intellectual Properties Management, exclusive licensor of the King Estate.
For details, free scholarship vouchers and complimentary tickets, visit www.theCollegeofAspiringArtists.com.