MLK DAY: Community commemoration to include discussion, performance

Jan. 13, 2014 @ 04:49 PM

Community leaders will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. later this month while also calling for a stop to the violence that has plagued Sanford lately.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day itself is a week from today on Jan. 16. The local celebration will be held Jan. 19, at 1:30 p.m. at the MLK Memorial Park on South Horner Boulevard, near the intersection with Washington Avenue. There will be a performance by local singer Shawanda Gill and a keynote speech by the Rev. Matt Garrett, the former president of Central Carolina Community College.

"I think that every American who is at all familiar with modern history knows that Dr. King made an enormous contribution to our country," Garrett said. "So it would be my intention to remind us of his work and to honor him for his sacrifice and his commitment to the rights of people."

Garrett was a teenager when King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968. He said that even as a young man, he had great respect for the Georgia-born preacher.

"It was a time of turmoil in our country, and it made an impact on me and my way of thinking," Garrett said. "I really respected his non-violent approach."

The MLK Day celebration continues Jan. 20 with a full day of activities at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center. Starting at 9 a.m., there is a seminar called Straight Talk for Teens focusing on violence, according to Margaret Murchison, president of the event's sponsoring group, the Council for Effective Actions and Decisions.

Solomon McAuley, an academic coach at CCCC and mentor with the Boys and Girls Club of Sanford/Lee County, will be joined by others familiar with the recent spate of violence, including local law enforcement officials, to break out into discussion sessions. In the last few weeks, four men have been shot and killed in Sanford.

The event is open to everyone in middle school or older, and a free breakfast will also be served. School is out that day in commemoration of the holiday.

"They'll be talking about drugs, violence, guns, self esteem, things like that," Murchison said. "We did something like that two or three years ago, and it was full of young people. We were shocked. ... It's geared to teenagers, but their parents, or other adults, they're all welcome to come if they want to learn more about all that."

During those discussions, many small business vendors will be set up at the civic center for people to visit. Murchison said vendor spots are still available for $25 each. Anyone interested should contact her at (919) 775-3525, or the Wilson and Reives law firm at (919) 775-5653, by Jan. 16.

The MLK Community Choir will perform at 1 p.m., followed by the keynote speaker, the Rev. George McCormick, associate minister of Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Asheboro. He also works with students at North Carolina A&T, a historically black college in Greensboro, on transitioning to and staying in college.