Members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Club are excited about the 29th annual Dr. King Unity Day Celebration on Monday in downtown Fort Wayne.
The event honoring the slain civil rights worker is the largest MLK celebration in Indiana, Club President Bennie Edwards said.
Edwards stressed that the event is open to people of all races.
“Most people think this is for African-Americans only, but that’s not true,” he said.
“We are honoring Dr. King, a Baptist preacher who believed in harmony and peace and justice for all,” he said, “and we want to share that message with everyone.”
It is especially important to pass on King’s values in light of the traumatic year the community has suffered, Edwards said, referring to the city’s 44 homicides in 2013.
A kickoff breakfast will be held prior to the main event at the Courtyard by Marriott, across from Grand Wayne Center, where Unity Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $20, and reservations are due today. Call 493-0980 to make reservations.
Breakfast with the Clergy begins at 8 a.m. and will feature keynote speaker Kenneth Christmon, pastor of Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and associate vice chancellor of diversity at IPFW. The MLK Clergy of the Year award will be presented to Luther Whitfield, pastor of the New Covenant Worship Center.
Admission is $5 a person to the all-day MLK Unity Day event, and there’s plenty of entertainment for all ages, especially youth, said Fran Grant, the club’s program director.
“We have two hours blocked with entertainment just for youth,” Grant said.
For teens who can’t afford it, an anonymous donor has paid the admission costs for 200 of them to attend the event, said Steven Manning, marketing director for the event.
Entertainment will include the GPBC Praise Dancers; Fort Wayne Community Choir; United Male Chorus; United Youth Choirs; True Love Praise Dancers; Ready, Set Go Mimi Team; Community Ministry of Fort Wayne; Leo High Mimi Time; Greater Progressive Mass Choir; and Dupree Memorial Goldennaires.
Keynote speaker will be Carl Mack, renowned as a champion of the civil rights movement, and there will be a tribute to local civil rights activist George Smith Jr., who died in April at the age of 69.
There will be a number of vendors and a sign-up booth for those interested in the club-sponsored bus trip in June to Mississippi and other Southern civil rights states.
Four academic scholarships of $1,000 each will be presented to area teens in honor of activist Smith and the late Glyn Gleason, former MLK president and founder of the Unity Day event in Fort Wayne, Edwards said.
Community service awards will be presented to the Rev. Harold Johnson of Kingdom Door Christian Worship Center and Pastor Donovan Coley, CEO of the Rescue Mission.
Edwards’ hope is that Unity Day will be just that.
“We all need to reach out to each other and find a way to live together in peace and harmony,” he said.