Martin Luther King festivities in Cape begin Thursday

Monday, January 9, 2012
The National Anthem is sung after the colors were posted by American Legion Post 63 at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Luncheon Monday, Jan. 17, 2011 at the Osage Centre. (Fred Lynch)

Although Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Jan. 16, festivities in Cape Girardeau to honor the civil rights activist will begin Thursday and seek to engage all members of the community.

The coming weekend will have a birthday celebration, memorial breakfast, youth gala and other tributes to King's life. The festivities will also commemorate King's accomplishments, as well as the community leaders who helped carry on his legacy.

"Since the holiday became official in 1986, we've tried to get people from all walks of life to come together," said Debra Mitchell-Braxton, founder and executive director of the Dr. Martin Luther King City-Wide Celebration Committee. "It's a time where we can reflect on what we can do to make life better for everyone."

The events begin at 7 p.m. Thursday with the 10th annual MLK Extravaganza Program in Cape Girardeau Central Junior High's auditorium, 205 Caruthers Ave. Area school choirs and dance troupes will provide musical and spoken tributes.

On Sunday, the 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration will honor King's birthday with area pastors giving tributes to him at St. James AME Church, 516 North St. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award will be handed out at the celebration. The award commemorates its recipient for their community service, Mitchell-Braxton said. The celebration begins at 6 p.m.

On Jan. 16, the 27th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast will be held at the Salvation Army, 701 Good Hope St. The keynote speaker will be Anthony McPherson, the pastor of Perry Chapel AME in Charleston, Mo. Mitchell-Braxton said she is not sure of McPherson's topic but that speakers at the breakfast typically talk about keeping King's dream of equality alive.

Following breakfast, there will be a humanitarian luncheon at noon at the Salvation Army, which will give those in attendance a chance to learn about volunteer opportunities. The Dr. C. John Ritter Humanitarian Award, which recognizes an area resident for outstanding humanitarian outreach work, will be presented at the luncheon. Byron Bonner, a minister at True Vine, will be the guest speaker.

Doors for the luncheon will open at 11:30 a.m.

At 4 p.m. Jan. 16, area students will perform tributes at West Park Mall. Students will dance, sing and read excerpts of King's speeches at the open area in the mall outside J.C. Penney, Mitchell-Braxton said.

While the events are all free and open to the public, attendees are asked to donate canned goods, nonperishable items, toiletries and school supplies for local food pantries and other agencies.

"It's supposed to be a day to come together and do service," Mitchell-Braxton said. "Pantries need to be restocked. People forget that there is still a need for all these items."

Volunteers with the Red Cross and AmeriCorps will use the day of service to canvass several apartment complexes to talk with residents and leave behind door hangers with fire safety information. The door hangers include information about smoke alarms, creating a household fire escape plan and tips for cooking and heating a home safely this winter.

"It's a day on, not a day off," said Sara Gerau, the local Red Cross' director of financial development. "We chose fire safety because fires are high this time of year."

This year marks the first time the Red Cross and AmeriCorps have used the King holiday as an opportunity for residents to volunteer, Gerau said. The event begins at 10 a.m. at the Red Cross, 2430 Myra Drive, and ends at noon.

At 6 p.m. Jan. 18, Southeast Missouri State University will host its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner at the Show Me Center, 1333 N. Sprigg St. The guest speaker will be Douglas Wilder, the first African-American governor in U.S. history. Wilder was sworn in as Virginia's governor 23 years ago, something Mitchell-Braxton called a racial milestone.

Tickets for the dinner are $15 and can be purchased at the Show Me Center box office.


Pertinent address:

701 Good Hope St., Cape Girardeau, MO

2430 Myra Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

205 Caruthers Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

1333 N. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

516 North St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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