Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, and groups around the county are celebrating his life and work.
Sunday at college
The celebration will include music and a speech by retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Rodney O. Anderson. Musical groups include the Sensational Nightingales, Jeff Patterson & Company and Michael Boykin and The Mighty Voices.
This is the first year for this event, and organizer Curtis Worthy hopes to make it an annual celebration. “We thought it would be a good opportunity to celebrate with the guest speaker and songs,” he said. “A lot of folks do banquets, and we just thought if we could bring folks together in a day of celebration it might be a different or unique way of doing that.”
Worthy said the music will range from contemporary to classic. The Sensational Nightingales started performing in the 1950s.
“(Listeners) can readily associate some of the music with some of what they endured in their lives at that point in time,” Worthy said.
Worthy said it’s important to remember history and that different races and groups came together to work toward King’s dream. “It’s not a blame game,” he said. “It’s only a remembrance of how far you’ve come and how far you still must travel to get equal or move forward.”
The United Way of the Greater Triangle is holding a day of service. In Johnston County, that service is a “Community Reads” day where children and families can practice reading together, said Chris Pfitzer, vice president of marketing and communications.
“They will be creating flash cards and bookmarks and a little mascot to help,” he said.
Volunteers will read stories and help kids make their own literacy kit to take home. Also, children will receive a new book to take home.
The United Way already has enough volunteers. Parents can take their children at any time and don’t need to register.
“Children’s literacy is a huge issues for us, and it is throughout the state and the Triangle,” Pfitzer said.
Pfitzer said doing a day of service is a great way to honor King’s memory. “The United Way is really committed to bringing communities together to achieve change, and Dr. King exemplified that,” he said.
The service, the church’s 14th, will feature its choir and the Gospel Jubilators. The theme this year is “Overcoming Injustice: The March Towards Equality Continues.”
The Rev. Sterling Freeman, pastor, plans to talk about the complicated figure of King as a Baptist preacher, activist, African-American male of the 1950s and 1960s, husband and father.
“I’ll be talking about his multiple roles as a young freedom fighter and all of the hats he wore and how that really complicated his situation,” Freeman said. “How he often sort of had his ups and downs as it related to the movement and his high moments and his doubts. I’m going to try to speak to the complexity of his being given the context which he was in, which was a context of segregation, or racial oppression.”
The day will start with a short march at 11 a.m. at the corner of Market and Sixth streets to “conjure the spirit” of King and the civil rights movement, Freeman said.
In the week leading up to Monday, the church held a film screening and events focusing on voter rights and education.
St. Peter’s Church
The church will continue its annual MLK Day worship service, which has been going on for about 20 years. Haywood T. Gray will speak; he is executive secretary and treasurer of the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
J.B. Woodhouse, an organizer of the service, is president of the Johnston African-American Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.
Woodhouse said it’s important to remember King’s legacy because he gave his life serving others and died for a good cause.
“I hope that (attendees) will take away that people, as Dr. King stated many years ago, will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” he said.