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Make Dr. King’s birthday a ‘day on’ – not off

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By The Staff

The MLK Jr. Commemorative Commission of Marion County will conclude a weeklong celebration of the birthday of one of the greatest figures of the 20th century with a call to service at “Day at the Park” on Monday, Jan. 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. complex.

The commission seeks to “keep the dream alive” locally by asking us all to share in “ComeUnity” on that day and all the days ahead by dedicating ourselves to the greater welfare of all in our neighborhoods and communities, a view endorsed by President-elect Barack Obama in his call for change.

Day at the Park will be preceded by a march from the Ocala Town Square at 9 a.m. to the Martin Luther King Jr. Complex at the corner of West Hwy. 40 and MLK Jr. Boulevard. Hundreds of people, including local luminaries, will discuss opportunities to contribute to the legacy of the great civil rights leader by devoting part of our lives to the service of others.

Earl DeBary will speak about Black Seminole Indians at 10.45 a.m. He is from the Marion County Museum of History and will be in a traditional Seminole outfit.

Food and entertainment will be available. Those participating in the march are asked to assemble at the town square at 8 a.m. and all are asked to help our neighbors in need by bringing non-perishable food items for donation to the Interfaith Emergency Services.

During the 1950s and ‘60s, civil rights leader and Nobel prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized the power of service to strengthen communities and achieve the goals common to all humanity. Initiated by Congress in 1994, the King Day of Service builds on that that legacy by transforming the federal holiday honoring Dr. King into a national day of community service grounded in his teachings of nonviolence and social justice.

The aim is to make the holiday a day on, where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to improve lives, bridge social barriers, and move our nation closer to the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King envisioned. With the election of Barack Obama, we as a nation have crossed one mountain but the peaks of prejudice, want and warfare are still to be conquered.

As Dr. King said “We must work together unceasingly to uplift this nation that we love to a higher destiny, to a higher plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humanness.”

Other events include a prayer breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday morning at the Edward Croskey Center, 1410 N.W. 4th St. Tickets are $10.

Sunday evening there will be an ecumenical service at the First Assembly of God, 1827 N.E. 14th St., at 7 p.m. Call Tina Brito, MLK Jr. committee event coordinator, at 369-7000 or e-mail tinabrito42@embarqmail.com for more information.

Although not officially a part of the MLK Jr. festivities, the realization of one of the great man’s dreams will be celebrated at an Inaugural Dinner at the Hilton Hotel at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20. Tickets are $40. Call Sally Smith at 390-3472 or e-mail sally4obama@gmail.com for more information.