MLK celebration planned at DeKalb church

Published: Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

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DeKALB – Community members are invited to honor civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martin Luther King Jr. in the place he first shined: church.

King was the third man in his family to serve as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, according to his biography on the Nobel Prize’s website, www.nobelprize.org. His grandfather served from 1914 to 1931, then his father served and King was co-pastor from 1960 until his assassination in April 1968.

Several congregations will reflect on King’s legacy today with the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration. The service starts at 7 p.m. at the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 1201 Twombly Road, DeKalb.

The theme is “The Beloved Community: Faces That Inspire – Martin Luther King Jr., John Perkins and Clarence Jordan,” said co-organizer Beth Campen. The beloved community was a term King and others used to describe a nonviolent society that would not tolerate poverty, hunger or homelessness, according to The King Center’s website, www.thekingcenter.org.

“All three men are very committed to the beloved community,” Campen said. “They wanted to get out into the community, not to condemn it, but redeem it.”

The event is co-hosted by New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and the First Congregational Church. The third Monday of every January marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which recognizes the nonviolent civil rights leader and his work to end racism in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Perkins was also a civil rights activist of the time, starting a number of community organizations in Mississippi. Jordan’s work with a small but dedicated religious community eventually served as the inspiration for Habitat for Humanity.

In addition to church songs, the celebration will feature readings of the three men’s biographies and sermons. Religion factored heavily into their lives and work, Campen said.

Rukisha Crawford, a graduate student of early childhood education at Northern Illinois University and co-organizer of the event, said the goal is to get members of the community more involved.

“The celebration is to make the community aware of the celebration and get everyone involved,” said Crawford, noting how King emphasized the community in his speeches and efforts.

Campen is expecting to bring 150 to 200 people to the event, although she added it depends on how many churches decide to come out. The presidential inauguration of Barack Obama, which occurs the same day, could affect attendance, she said.

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