Keeping King's memory alive

Event honors civil rights icon with speeches, praise, prayer
Jan. 16, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

With singing, dancing, prize giveaways, prayer and speeches, Sanford's upcoming two-day Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration bring together a diverse crowd and offer an assortment of activities.

The commemoration begins Sunday with a wreath-placing ceremony at the MLK Memorial Park on South Horner Boulevard, near the intersection with Washington Avenue. Starting at 1 p.m., Pastor Delores Washington of the Ebenezer Gospel Assembly will speak, followed by a song and the wreath ceremony itself, which will be conducted by local officials.

On Monday, the 16th annual MLK Day Community Celebration will take place all day at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, starting at 9:30 a.m. and going well into the afternoon. The festivities are being sponsored by the Council for Effective Actions and Decisions, and the council's president, Margaret Murchison, said there will be something for everyone.

"It's like a big family reunion," she said. "Black, white, Hispanic, we're all there."

Early activities are youth competitions for miming, praise dance and choir, which will last approximately three hours. Then at 12:30 p.m., the main speaker, former N.C. Senator Eric Mansfield, will take the floor.

Mansfield, a former Army medical officer who works as a Fayetteville physician and youth minister, won election to the N.C. Senate in 2010 but left after just one term to run for lieutenant governor, losing in the Democratic primary to Linda Coleman. He's now campaigning to become chairman of the N.C. Democratic Party.

The event will also feature booths set up around the civic center from small and large businesses and services, plus entertainment from the local Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Choir. Both days' events will be free and open to the public, and all vendors and youth group competitors must sign up in advance.

Youth groups hoping to compete must contact William Terry Wicker at (919) 774-4860. Prospective vendors should contact Murchison at (919) 775-3525 or (919) 258-3277, or the law office of Wilson & Reives at (919) 775-5653, to reserve either a $25 spot or a $50 spot. Deadline is Thursday.

Monday's event will also feature birthday cake, cash card giveaways, community awards and a special focus on Volunteer Lee, a group that connects potential volunteers with schools, churches, non profits and other groups. Murchison noted this year's celebration will carry more significance than normal because Monday coincides with President Barack Obama's inauguration, and this month marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

She said volunteerism has always been a focus of MLK Day celebrations, and since Obama is asking citizens to spend Saturday doing volunteer work, that theme is especially relevant this year.

"We always want a day off, but if you can do something to help someone else on your day off, that's what this is all about," Murchison said, adding that volunteering can mean checking in on local senior citizens, working at a food pantry or any number of other activities.

"Our country is really based on the concept of helping others, and we want to keep that up," she said.