King Day 2012 Celebration program co-chairs Christopher Cohilas, left, and Billie Robinson, right, present Lee County Middle School sixth-grader Traedjon Washington with the first MLK Youth Dream Award during Monday night’s King Day Celebration banquet at the Albany Civic Center.
ALBANY, Ga. — Accompanied by music from the Albany Marine Band and artwork produced by students of the Dougherty County School System, dozens of people from throughout the community gathered to honor a man considered to be the pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The King Day 2012 celebration was held Monday at the Albany Civic Center. The event included award presentations and an address from the Rev. Grady Caldwell, an Albany native who now serves as a minister in Griffin.
Following a special presentation made to former Albany Mayor Willie Adams by state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, came what has become the highlight of the annual observance — the presentation of the Dream Awards.
The Dream Award is meant to honor six individuals nominated for their selfless work to better the community.
The recipients this year were:
- Linda Harris, a case worker with the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program who also works with the Carver Community Center;
- John Culbreath, former Dougherty schools superintendent and co-founder of Strive 2 Thrive — an initiative to help battle poverty in the community;
- Colette Jenkins, founder of Chosen to Conquer — a nonprofit whose purpose is to help women impacted by multiple sclerosis
- Yolanda Amadeo, a WALB-TV meteorologist.
Although not present to accept the award in person, Todd and LaDonna Urick also received a Dream Award in recognition of Mission:Change, a movement they are spearheading to raise awareness on the impact of homelessness and poverty in the community.
For the first time this year, the issue arose as to whether to give a Dream Award to a youth in the community. It resulted in the creation of the Martin Luther King Youth Dream Award.
The first youth to receive this honor on Monday was Traedjon Washington, a student of Lee County Middle School. In two weeks, he raised funds — more than $3,000 — for a community student center, and he is currently looking for sponsors to help the unemployed in the community.
In 2008, he assisted with voter registration efforts, though he was too young to cast a ballot himself, and has been acknowledged as one of the top readers in his grade level.
Caldwell took the stage near the end of the program, taking the opportunity to emphasize that the most important thing in the world could be summed up in one word — understanding.
“There is no person in this room, or listening on TV, that has an excuse for not understanding that God has a purpose for us in this world,” Caldwell said. “We did not get here alone.
“I was taught at an early age that I had value and could do anything I set my mind to.”
He went on to talk about his maternal grandmother, who, by never finishing school, understood the value of an education. His father died when he was a toddler, and the man who he considered to be his second father was Dr. William Anderson, the leader of the Albany Movement.
“We must do a critical self-examination,” Caldwell said. “It is not about you or me, but it is about how God wants us to impact the lives of others.
“We must bring this country back to God.”
Also during the program, Geraldine Hudley, a board member for the Albany Civil Rights Institute, said that officials would be soon posting the position of executive director.
The former executive director, Lee Formwalt, left his position at the institute late last year.
The proceeds from Monday’s event over actual expenses will go to the institute, as well as to support next year’s celebration.