Martin Luther King events start Thursday

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Youth from Sikeston, Mo. sang during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Luncheon last year at the Osage Community Centre. (Fred Lynch)

The memory of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be honored for the next several days through a series of free community events.

Debra Mitchell-Braxton, founder and executive director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. City-Wide Celebration Committee, said offering events at no charge is in keeping with King's teachings.

"Dr. King's legacy was about equality and bringing everyone to the same table," she said.

In lieu of admission fees, she said, the group requests donations of nonperishable food items, toiletries and school supplies. Items collected during the celebration will be donated to several local food pantries, First Call for Help and Boys and Girls Club of Cape Girardeau. Monetary donations to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund at Southeast Missouri State University are also accepted at each of the events.

Since starting the celebration in 1985, Mitchell-Braxton has seen it grow from the annual breakfast to six events that take place over four days.

The celebration kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Extravaganza at the Osage Community Centre. The musical event will feature local performers and is intended to keep the focus on King's actual birthday, Jan. 14, Mitchell-Braxton said.

Sunday night's event, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration, will feature tributes to King from area pastors. There will also be performances from area choirs and praise dancers. It will be at 6 p.m. at Rhema Word Breakthrough International Ministries, 750 N. Mount Auburn Road.

Monday's events at the Osage Community Centre start with the annual breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by a program on the civil rights movement at 10 a.m. and a luncheon at noon.

"The holiday is more than just a day off work. In 1994 Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act as a National Day of Service. It brings people together and breaks down barriers," Mitchell-Braxton said. But because not everyone receives the day off work, she said, the committee planned several events to accommodate a variety of work schedules.

While admission to the breakfast and luncheon is free, reservations are required. To register by Friday, call 573-979-0213.

Monday's final event, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Gala at West Park Mall, will feature tributes from local children.

Mitchell-Braxton said events have been well-attended by a diverse audience since the celebration's inception.

"I have been planning events honoring Dr. King's legacy and the civil rights era in our history for 30 years. The events continue to grow in attendance," she said.

Ramona Robinson-Bailey of Cape Girardeau will be singing at both the birthday extravaganza and the breakfast. This is her 10th year performing during the celebration.

"It is important to me because of Martin Luther King and what he stood for -- peace and equality for everyone. He was a great human. He saw things could be better and made a difference," Robinson-Bailey said.

The event has become a family affair for Robinson-Bailey. Her mother, Altha Robinson, has played piano during every celebration the committee has sponsored, and her 8-year-old daughter, Peighton, will be performing at this year's extravaganza and luncheon.

Mitchell-Braxton said it is important to continue to honor King for his contributions to our country and to remember his sacrifice.

"He fought, lived and died for equality," she said.

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