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MLK Club to split off 2 events

January 2, 2019

The Martin Luther King Jr. Club has decided that one day a year isn’t enough to honor the slain civil rights leader.

Officials of the local nonprofit organization are organizing their 34th annual Dr. King Unity Day to take place on the federal holiday that celebrates his birth, Jan. 21.

But they have decided to move the annual clergy breakfast, which kicked off the Unity Day celebration for the past 10 years, to April 4. That date is the 51st anniversary of King’s assassination.

“By having them at the same time, they kind of competed with each other,” said Bennie Edwards, the MLK Club’s president.

The clergy breakfast had started at 8 a.m. and lasted about two hours, making participants late for the beginning of Unity Day events, which begin at 9:30.

Organizers are considering turning the breakfast into a brunch this year and starting it at noon because it’s on a weekday, when participants wouldn’t normally have the day off work, Edwards said.

Everything but the date is still in flux. Organizers haven’t chosen a location, although they are looking at the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation, he said. Where the event takes place will determine the admission price.

And although club officials are committed to bringing in a nationally known speaker for the event, they haven’t settled on which one, Edwards added.

The clergy breakfast celebrates local ministers who have established programs that improve the lives of local youth. Nominations were accepted from 270 people who attended last year’s event. They represented about 25 churches, Edwards said.

The six with the most mentions are being honored. The club’s board members chose the one who will be named Clergy of the Year. That person’s identity is still secret.

The April 4 celebration will also recognize three people with Community Service Awards:

• Dr. Delois McKinley-Eldridge, popular gospel radio host.

• Thomas Brownlee, owner of Thomas Brownlee & Sons Market.

• Larry Gist, president of the local NAACP.

Each honoree, Edwards said, has gone “above and beyond” in contributing to the community.

Dr. King Unity Day events Jan. 21 will include a keynote speech by Ivy Bailey, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

“Our focus this year is on education, and the theme is: A Community Endeavor,” Edwards said.

Three community leaders : Prophet Cedric Walker, Bishop Crystal Bush and Pastor Raymond Dix : will participate in a panel discussion looking at issues and solutions with a focus on violence.

Fort Wayne Deputy Police Chief Garry Hamilton is also scheduled to share suggestions for dealing with drugs and violence.

Three church choirs will perform, and the organization will award three $1,000 scholarships to high school students.

The MLK Club’s mission is to increase community awareness of “African-Americans’ rich heritage and the heritage of other ethnic groups,” according to the local group’s website. Additionally, the club shares “the philosophy of nonviolence and passive resistance as expounded by Dr. King.”

Edwards wants those philosophies to take center stage in April : wherever the event take place.

“We look at that,” he said, “as that’s the day that changed America.”

sslater@jg.net

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