By Cade Fowler - bio | email
ALBANY, GA (WALB) – 2011 is a milestone year for the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, especially here in Albany. Fifty years ago, King led civil rights marches here in Albany. Twenty five years ago, the country first celebrated MLK Day.
The theme for the King Day 2011 is Remember, Celebrate, Act. Its message is simple: To remember Dr. King, celebrate his accomplishments, and act upon what he fought and died for.
Monday night hundreds of people both black and white, young and old gathered in the Albany Civic Center.
Just a few decades ago, many of those who sat side-by-side would not have been able to sit down in the same room for dinner. Thanks in part to Dr. King and other civil right's pioneers a diverse crowd came together for food, music, and to hear about the work of MLK.
While some people in attendance endured the racial inequalities and witnesses first hand the work of Dr. King, others were born years after he was assassinated.
Still, the path he created for African-Americans to have equal rights had an impact on everyone.
Carla Hawkins, Miss Black Georgia USA, was one of the special guests on hand at the King Day event. She says she doesn't take for granted the fact that the title she holds would not have been achievable had she grown up in her grandparent's generation.
"A lot of times we weren't give opportunities at one time before. Now that these opportunities are arising, I'm definitely taking hold of it and making the best of it," said Hawkins.
Keynote speaker Lonnie King, Jr. was born in south Georgia but grew up in Atlanta. As a child he attended Ebenezer Baptist Church where he became friends with MLK. He recalled hearing him practicing sermons in the upstairs of the church.
Lonnie King, who is not related Dr. King, was inspired by his friend and became a civil right's activists.
He said, "Had there not been a Montgomery, we might not have a had a King. But he was able to showcase his skills there. The greatest thing he had going for him was auditory. He could talk."
He said MLK's dream has not yet been fully realized saying that education and the prison system are two institutions that must be dealt with before the dream becomes a reality.
Former District Attorney Ken Hodges also spoke at the event.
Four people were honored for working to further Dr. King's dream. WALB's Karla Heath Sands was one of the King Day Dream Award recipients. Aside from her duties anchoring Today In Georgia, Karla was recognized for hosting Dialogue - a weekly program that focuses on issues affecting African Americans - and for her volunteer work in the community.
The other winners are Reverend Jim Purks III, Charles Lamb III, and Joyce Barlow.
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