Leaders with the Olathe unit of the NAACP decided more than a decade ago that their annual observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday needed to expand beyond the confines of a school gymnasium.
Now the annual observance is a plated dinner held at one of Johnson County’s top hotels and attracts hundreds.
“The event brings together in one place all of the leaders of Johnson County,” said branch president Henry E. Lyons. “It brings together all races, and it is just a beautiful thing to see.”
The group’s observance is among the collection of programs scheduled to celebrate the legacy of the slain civil rights leader.
Among those events:
The Johnson County King celebration takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday at Blue Valley West High School, 16200 Antioch Road in Stilwell. The event is free, but donations will be accepted. This year’s theme, The Dream Revisited, will feature the Rev. Tony D. Cobbins, senior pastor at Canaan Worship Center of Kansas City, as the keynote speaker.
The Olathe Human Relations Commission’s annual observance begins at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Olathe Hotel and Conference Center, Kansas 10 and Ridgeview Road. The event is free and open to the public.
The 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Scholarship Awards Dinner will be held Monday at the Overland Park Marriott Hotel, 10800 Metcalf Ave. A social at 5:30 p.m. kicks off the event, which organizers proclaim is the largest King observance in Johnson County. Dinner is served at 6 p.m., and the program starts at 7 p.m.
The awards committee is giving its Legacy Award to Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.
“I am very honored to receive the award. It means a lot to me,” Howe said. “I take a lot of pride making sure that we equate justice based on the facts of the law and nothing else.”
The cost is $75. To reserve a seat, call 816-920-7774.
Kansas City, Kan.
The theme for this year’s King celebration in Kansas City, Kan., is Reigniting the Dream; All Lives Matter.
The event will be Monday. It will begin with the annual Motorcade for Hunger, which departs at 10 a.m. from Mount Zion Baptist Church at Fifth Street and Richmond Avenue. It will arrive at the Reardon Civic Center, Fifth Street and Minnesota Avenue, at 11 a.m., where the celebration takes place.
More than $30,000 in scholarships will be awarded to graduating high school seniors, and the King Mass Choir will perform.
“Our objective is to preserve the memory and the legacy of Dr. King,” said organizer LaVert Murray. “To achieve that objective, there has to be a meaningful discussion about our relationship with God and how one achieves a Christ-like existence.”
The Rev. Lemuel F. Thuston, bishop of the Kansas East Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, will give the keynote address.
Other area observances
The Martin Luther King Jr. Missouri state celebration begins at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at Concord Fortress of Hope Church, 11050 W. Longview Parkway in Kansas City.
This year’s theme for the musical tribute is Cultivating the Dream … Conquering the Struggle. Mayor Sly James is scheduled to speak. An assortment of vocal, instrumental and dance performances will take place.
In Raytown, participants plan to continue their tradition of singing “Pass It On” during the city’s 19th annual Martin Luther King Multicultural Celebration. The program starts at 3 p.m. Sunday at Graceway, 5460 Blue Ridge Cutoff. Anthony Moore, an assistant Raytown superintendent, will be the keynote speaker.
The King celebration in Lee’s Summit takes place at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Pavilion at John Knox Village, 520 N.W. Murray Road. The program includes speeches and musical and dance performances.
The theme for this year is Living Bridge of Peace. Kirk A. Nooks, president of Metropolitan Community College-Longview, will be the keynote speaker.
Frank White, Royals legend and Jackson County executive, will be the keynote speaker during the annual King observance in Independence. The program, now in its 29th year, takes place at 7 p.m. Monday at the Truman Memorial Building, 416 W. Maple Ave.
The Liberty event will begin with a community discussion called Race and White Privilege. It will be held at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the Gano Assembly Room on the campus of William Jewell College in Liberty. The annual celebration will begin at 10 a.m. in Gano Memorial Chapel.
The William Jewell Concert Choir will perform, and several campus and community leaders will be honored with the Martin Luther King Jr. community service award.
The Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III, pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, will give the keynote address. Cleaver said he is encouraged that several suburban communities recognize and celebrate King’s life and legacy.
“I believe it is a great thing to see non-African-Americans honoring Dr. King and what he stood for,” Cleaver said. “I think it is a start in the right direction. But if the only thing that comes from it is a celebration, then it doesn’t bring about lasting change.”