King week 2003 kicking off as 'a call to action'


Published: Monday, January 13, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 11:57 p.m.
Beginning Tuesday, Gainesville will commemorate the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with a weeklong series of events and services concluding with King's birthday observance Jan. 20.
But King Week 2003 is not just a celebration of King's life, Alachua County Commissioner Rodney Long said.
"It's a call to action," Long said. "It's time for the next generation of leaders to step up to the plate."
This year's theme is "Bridging the Next Generation."
"Many young people today have no clue about the principles Dr. King based his work on," Long said. "They think of the 'I Have a Dream' speech, but know very little about what the movement was really about. It's about social justice, about economic empowerment. It's not just about whether we can sit at the lunch counter."
Long said it's important that today's black youth, especially those in high school and college, don't take for granted what they can do, thanks to the efforts of King and many others before and after him.
"They have to remember that it wasn't always like this," he said. "A lot of them were born after the movement ended. Dr. King became the standard bearer, but he certainly didn't do it alone. People have given their lives for this movement."
Gainesville has celebrated King Week since 1984.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida sponsors events during the week in conjunction with the city of Gainesville and several local businesses. Tuesday's opening event will be a 7 p.m. service at Mount Moriah Baptist Church, with the Rev. Alvin Baker as keynote speaker.
On Sunday, the commission will present its 18th annual Hall of Fame Banquet, with keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami. This year's Hall of Fame Award recipients are Lucille Perkins, Carol Thomas, and the late Pearlie Mae Stephens-Hunt.
The week will culminate on Jan. 20 with the annual Commemorative March downtown at noon and the "Celebration of Unity" finale, presented by the World Harmony Project at the Hippodrome State Theatre from 7-10 p.m.
Another ceremony, hosted by the Gainesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center, will take place Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the auditorium. The keynote speaker will be Clovis Watson, city manager and police commissioner of Alachua.
Long said it's important that young social justice leaders emerge.
"It's time to pass the torch to the new generation," Long said. "It's time to stop merely dreaming and wake up. It's time to live these principles. And it's time to realize that it's not about the 'I,' but about the 'we.' "

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