The range of local events celebrating the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday involved speeches, singing, dancing and various acts of community service.
Activities started shortly after sunrise and were scheduled to continue well into the evening. Events included a breakfast, a motorcade, scholarship banquet and a community forum scattered at various area locations throughout the day.
They conclude tonight with a celebration of song and praise at Metropolitan Missionary Church, where Rep. Emanuel Cleaver is scheduled to deliver the keynote address. Meanwhile, King celebrations also were taking place Monday in Lee’s Summit, Overland Park and Kansas City, Kan.
Monday marked the 28th national observance of the slain civil rights leader’s birthday. King would have turned 86 on Jan. 15.
In one of the day’s earlier programs, Northland residents and others packed a reception hall inside the John Gano Memorial Chapel on the William Jewell College campus in Liberty for a dialogue about race relations.
Organizers said the events in Ferguson, Mo., where a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed African-American teen, spurred the need for the discussion. Guided by facilitators, participants were divided into small groups and discussed two topics: What pains you about race in the Northland? How have you seen this play out in the community?
Simone Houston Stewart, a junior physics major and lifelong Liberty resident, said while race relations have improved over the years, there is much more that needs to be done.
“Students at Jewell think that just because things have gotten better, that is the best things can be,” said Stewart. “But better does not mean we stop criticizing or discussing. It means we push harder because obvious barriers are broken.”
Later in the morning, a large multiracial crowd gathered for Liberty’s 31st annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
The event’s theme was “Fifty Years of Civil Rights Milestones and Struggles: For the Legacy to Continue, There is Still Much to be Done!” The program featured poetry, a praise dance and separate gospel and concert choirs.
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