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Martin Luther King to be honored in Albany

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- While ticket sales appeared slim early on, coordinators of the 2011 King Day celebration say they are hopeful for a good response.

The event's prelude will kick off at 5 p.m. Monday at the Albany Civic Center, with the program to start at 5:30 p.m. and run through 7 p.m.

Guest speakers will be Lonnie King, a civil rights activist, and Ken Hodges, attorney at Ashe, Rafuse and Hill in Atlanta and a former Georgia Attorney General candidate.

The program will also feature musical selections from the Albany State University Gospel Choir and this year's Dream Awards presentations.

Last year, the Dream Award recipients were Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards, Lily Pad Executive Director Karen Kemp and Sandra Pinkney Parker, community advocate and educator.

Tickets are being sold at the Civic Center, Odyssey Records on East Oglethorpe Boulevard and Helen's Barber Shop on West Highland Avenue. The cost for an individual ticket is $20, or $500 for a table.

"We are looking to have a wonderful turnout," said Bessie Graper, a member of the King Day committee. "We have had a good response in years past."

The purpose of the celebration is twofold. It honors the legacy of the slain civil rights leader and also serves as a fundraiser for the Albany Civil Rights Institute.

"It's history," said Graper, who works in the business office of The Albany Herald. "We want our children to know where they came from."

Last year, the King Day celebration was able to raise $28,000. With less than a week to go before the 2011 celebration, officials had been able to sell only 500 individual tickets for this year's event -- about half as many as they usually would.

It's something coordinators are concerned about.

"In the past, we have been able to raise a lot of money for the Albany Civil Rights Institute," said Helen Young, who has been involved with the King Day celebration since 1999. "In terms of the program, it will be great.

"Ticket sales are not what they used to be. It has to be the way the economy is coming down."

Sixty tables have been filled for this year, 17 less than in 2010.

The winning entries from the "Children of the Dream" art competition, which were created by middle and high school students in Dougherty County, will be on display at Monday's ceremony.

The pieces were based on the theme "Remembering, Celebrate and Act Economically Responsible" and were judged by local artists.

"(The students) came up with really excellent work," Young said.

In all, 56 pieces were submitted. They will remain on display in various places throughout the Albany area until they are returned to the school system in March.

Young's motivation for staying involved with the King celebration is much like Graper's.

"As long as children are being born, people need to be taught about Martin Luther King," she said. "We want them to learn that Dr. King freed all of us and gave us a way out. He told whites not to be afraid of blacks and blacks not to be afraid of whites. I would hate to see history repeat itself.

"We are all brothers in the eyes of God."

Also on Monday, the nonprofit organization H.E.A.R.T. (Hands Extended Across Reaching Together) will host its annual Martin Luther King Jr. program and breakfast. The event will kick off at 7:30 a.m. at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on South Westover Boulevard. The Rev. O. Jermaine Simmons of Jacob Chapel Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Fla., will be the guest speaker.

Breakfast will follow in Mt. Zion's fellowship hall.