MLK Day events planned

Published 10:28 pm Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Suffolk residents are gearing up to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. next week. Several events are planned through the city to commemorate the civil rights activist’s birthday. The Local 2426 Union will be hosting Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday Celebration on Saturday, while the MLK Group will be hosting an event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Local 2426 (formerly the Local 26) Union and the Retirees Activity Club will be holding a birthday party for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Local 2426 Union hall on East Washington Street beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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At this event, the Local 2426 Union will honor deceased union members and watch the documentary “The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306.” The movie features the Rev. Samuel Kyles, who was standing next to King when he was assassinated, describing his memories of the assassination and days leading up to the assassination.

Belinda Evans, financial secretary and treasurer of the union, made a promise to former Local 26 Union members that they would always celebrate King’s birthday on Jan. 15.

“We are determined to celebrate on his birthday,” Evans said.

The union began hosting an annual birthday celebration for Martin Luther King Jr. more than 30 years ago.

The Local 2426 Union was the first area union to demand observation of King’s birthday as a paid holiday following his assassination.

“Because of what I’ve read of him and his speech, he was like another Moses. People say that you bless the bridge that got you over,” Evans said. “You honor that.”

The MLK Group, made up of representatives from the Local 2426 (Formerly the Local 26) Union, the Suffolk Branch of the NAACP, and the Suffolk Interdenominational Ministry Alliance, will also be hosting an event at 11 a.m. Monday at Tabernacle Christian Church. The MLK group has been hosting a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event for more than 25 years.

This year’s event will feature Dr. John Kenny of Virginia Union University in Richmond as its featured speaker. The group also will be honoring Dr. L.D. Britt and the Retired Teachers Association for their service to the community.

The Retired Teachers Association will be receiving the “Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Award,” which is awarded to organizations who have contributed to the community by sharing the dream and setting examples King exemplified during his lifetime.

Britt will be honored with the MLK Suffolk Community Service Award, presented to a distinguished citizen who has served Suffolk and the surrounding area. Britt, a general surgeon, is the president of the American College of Surgeons, and a professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School. He is being recognized for going beyond the call of duty in fulfilling King’s dream of community service in his professional and private life, Whitfield said.

The group also will present prizes for the student essay contest. The elementary, middle, and high school students who participated in the contest wrote on the topic, “What advice would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give President Barack Obama at this time?”

The event also will feature the Lakeland High School Band, Kings Fork High School’s color guard, and East End Baptist Church’s Youth Choir. Suffolk’s Youth Council and the NAACP’s Youth Branch also will be participating in this event.

“It brings people together of all races and cultures to exemplify and fulfill dreams that [Martin Luther King Jr.] shared with us during his earthly time,” said the Rev. Felton Whitfield, chairman of the MLK Group.

Whitfield explained that it was King’s dream that no one be judged by the color of his skin. This event, Whitfield explained, will bring people of all races, cultures, religions and political viewpoints together peacefully.

“It honors him by coming together to fulfill the dreams and ideas he implemented,” said Whitfield.

Both events are free and open to the public.