King speaker will focus on change
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.
In 2000, the Rev. DeForest B. Soaries was invited by Coretta Scott King to be the keynote speaker at the National Commemorative celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Atlanta.
MLK Day events continue today
- The Gainesville/Alachua County commemorative celebration to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continues today with the annual press conference in downtown Gainesville. Activities end Jan. 26. The theme this year is "Justice for All.''
- Today: King Celebration '08 Kick Off Program, 6:30 p.m., St. Augustine Church & Catholic Student Center, 1738 W. University Ave., with speaker, the Rev. Dr. DeForest Soaries Jr., senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Somerset, N.J., and former secretary of state of New Jersey. Contact: the Rev. Kevin Thorpe, (352) 375-4850 or Marie D. Small, (352) 335-0572.
- MLK Day events through the week
- Wednesday: Food for the Soul Lunch Series: "Waking up from 'The Dream'... Were the Boondocks right about MLK?'' 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Institute of Black Culture (across from Library West), University of Florida campus.
- Cafe Cultural: Cesar Chavez and the Hispanic-Latino Civil Rights Movement, 7 p.m., Institute of Hispanic-Latino Culture, University of Florida campus.
- Community Building and Activism Workshop, 6:30 p.m., Institute of Black Culture, University of Florida campus.
- Thursday: 2008 Black History and Cultural Brain Bowl, 7 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Purpose Center, 1028 NE 14th St. Contact: Cynthia E. Mingo, (352) 466-3320 or (352) 222-9425.
- Friday: Affordable Housing Forum, 7 p.m. MLK Multi-Purpose Center, 1028 NE 14th St. Contact: Janice Nix Crews, (352) 380-9110; Marie D. Small, (352) 335-0572 or Diyonne McGraw, (352) 246-1739
- Saturday: Educational Crisis Task Forum M.O.R.E. Initiative Charrette, 8:30 a.m., MLK Multi-Purpose Center, 1028 NE 14th St. Contact: Vivian Filer, (352) 376-9966 or Larry McDaniel, (352) 338-1344.
- Sunday: Martin Luther King Jr., Commission of Florida Inc. 23rd annual Hall of Fame Banquet, 6 p.m. Paramount Resort and Conference Center, 2900 SW 13th St. with keynote speaker, the Honorable Dr. Jocelyn Elders, former U.S. surgeon general. Tickets: $50. Contact: Jackie Hart-Williams, (352) 264-6956 or (352) 376-2442.
This year, as he prepares to visit Gainesville for King Celebration '08, Soaries said he considers Alachua County's events to be on par with the national event in 2000.
"Gainesville's event is one of the most extensive celebrations for Dr. King's birthday in the country," Soaries said. "I'm just honored to be a part of it."
Soaries is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, N.J., and was also the first black secretary of state for New Jersey when he served from 1999 to 2002. Soaries gained national attention last year when, as the chaplain for the Rutgers women's basketball team, he facilitated discussions between talk-radio host Don Imus and the team after Imus made derogatory comments about the women.
Soaries will be the keynote speaker at the King Celebration '08 Kickoff Program tonight at 6 at the St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center, 1738 W. University Ave.
Since 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of King's death, Soaries said he will most likely talk about how things have changed in those 40 years - and how things haven't changed.
"I'll be juxtaposing our realities to King's challenges and how the obstacles might be different, but that the need for leadership is the same," he said.
Though Soaries said he is proud of so many of the advancements that have been made since King's time - including a viable black candidate for president - he is also saddened that disparities still exist.
"We have economical disparities. We have complex social problems. We have gangs that are creating new challenges for leaders," Soaries said. "King's legacy is one of leadership, and we have now, 40 years later, a need to craft new responses to new challenges that threaten the quality of our lives, like racial segregation did in his time."
Alice Wallace can be reached at 352-338-3109 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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