In an effort to foster social equality and peace, a number of Lawrence churches, schools and residents are working together to organize events for the community in celebration of next week’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Ecumenical Fellowship Inc. has been the coordinator of MLK Day events in Lawrence since 1986. This year, the largest event will be the Gospel Music Fest at the Lawrence Free Methodist Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave., at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The official MLK Day is on Monday.
“It’s not only about Martin Luther King,” said Marlon Wesley, a marketing co-coordinator of the MLK Day events. “It’s about doing something that Martin Luther King wanted to do. He did everything through God’s eyes. It’s to bring everyone together to celebrate as one in music.”
The festival will feature three local professional entertainers: Cedwan Hooks, a young puppeteer, will entertain children with a puppet show; Alexis Spight, a finalist on BET’s Sunday Best, will sing gospel music; and Randy Fears, a gospel composer and director, will direct the community choir.
Fears will hold choir practice at the Lawrence Free Methodist Church for free and for anyone who would like to participate in the Gospel Music Fest. Choir practices for kindergarten through fifth grade will take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday. Practices for sixth grade through adults will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday.
Anita Martin, a coordinator of the event, said hundreds of people have attended MLK Day events at the Lawrence Free Methodist Church in past years. She expects about 500 people to show up this year. The festival will be free and open to the public.
“It’s a joyous celebration in unity that’s grounded in Christ with recognition to the progress that has been made in racial reconciliation and with the hope of even better things yet to come,” said Travis Peterson, a marketing coordinator of MLK Day events.
Other Martin Luther King Jr. Day events:
• All elementary, middle and high schools in Lawrence will present their MLK Day service projects at Lawrence Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Students from New York School will also sing songs in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. at the free event.
• South Middle School, 2734 Louisiana St., will have a MLK Day of Celebration in the main gym at 2:20 p.m. Friday. The students will sing and present their poetry and videos. The theme is “Passing on the Torch.” The event will be free and open to the public.
• The Boys and Girls Club is hosting a food drive at several sites until Friday afternoon. The food will benefit Just Food.
• The Lawrence Rotary Breakfast Club and the Ecumenical Fellowship Inc. will host an MLK Breakfast at 7 a.m. Monday at Maceli’s, 1031 New Hampshire St. The buffet-style breakfast event will cost $10 per person. Tickets will be available at the door. The guest speaker will be Dr. Randal Jelks, associate professor of American studies at Kansas University.
• Habitat for Humanity is having volunteers between the ages of 16 and 18 help build a three-bedroom home for a Lawrence family on Comfort Lane in North Lawrence. The construction project is part of the MLK Day of Service and will begin at 10 a.m. Monday. Volunteers will hang sheet rock, paint and do roof work on the home. This will be the 81st house that Habitat for Humanity has built in Lawrence.
• KU is hosting an MLK Day celebration on Monday. The program will start at 4:30 p.m. in the Strong Hall rotunda. A reading by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little will be followed by a candlelight vigil that will proceed on foot from Strong Hall to the Kansas Union. A reception will be held in the Big 12 Room of the union at 5:30 p.m. The program will include welcome remarks by Jeff Vitter, the provost and executive vice chancellor. The elementary, middle school and high school winners of the MLK essay contest will read their essays. KU’s International Gospel Voices choir will perform, and the keynote address will be given by Blane Harding, the director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The event is free and open to the public.
• New York School, 936 New York St., will have an MLK chili feed from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday in the cafeteria. Food will be served on a free-will donation basis. Members of the Boys and Girls Club will present their MLK legacy reflections during the meal.
• Wallace Hartsfield, pastor emeritus of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., will be the keynote speaker during Baker University’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Jan. 24 at the Clarice L. Osborne Memorial Chapel, 515 Sixth St., Baldwin City. The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. Hartsfield was recently inducted into the Missouri Walk of Fame, which honors the achievements of those who have made significant contributions to Missouri and the nation.