Local events planned for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

At least a couple of Monday, Jan. 20 events are planned to commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.

The day begins with a Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (S.C.L.C.) at L & B Restaurant located on 247 Gregory Dr. Collinsville, AL. The event starts at 8 a.m. with guest speaker the Rev. Walter Turner, pastor of Faith in Christ Church of Fort Payne. This year's theme is "Celebrating the Past as we Prepare for the Future." The cost of breakfast will be adults $7 and children $6.

That evening, entertainers Sandra Lafferty and Russell Gulley will headline a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the DeKalb County Democrat headquarters on Gault Avenue in downtown Fort Payne.

They will be honoring King, the Atlanta-born minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs. The Deep South of his era was one of brutal police, unjust courts and unsolved bombings and murders of African-Americans’ homes and churches.

King won the Nobel Peace Prize and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971; the holiday was enacted at the federal level in 1986.

“This is a special night with two legendary locals helping us to celebrate, so please join us to celebrate the strength and fight of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Paula Manning McDougall, chairperson for the DeKalb County Democratic Club. She said her party’s platform includes promotion of racial justice through fair and equitable governing in public policy and dismantling the structures that define lasting racial, economic, political, and social inequity.

Gulley is a veteran recording artist with the group Jackson Highway who produced the RadioVizions music series and has spent decades promoting local arts in education. He said he will be performing a collection of songs focused on Black History Civil Rights, plus an original song based on an oral history done by a fourth grade student about the family of Chaunda Greathouse. Gulley said local blacks weren’t allowed to attend shows at the nearby DeKalb Theatre during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, but an African-American now manages the venue.

Lafferty will use her acting skills to perform a reading of King’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham City Jail” in which he defended the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism after he was arrested on April 12, 1963 for disobeying an injunction against demonstrating and defended against criticism that he and other activists were “outsiders” causing trouble on the streets, including the line, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

King argued that not only was civil disobedience justified in the face of unjust laws, but it was necessary and even patriotic because “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Lafferty is best known for her roles in the films “Walk the Line,” “Hunger Games,” “Prisoners,” “Self/Less,” and “A Walk in the Woods.” As a stage actress, she performs with the Denver Center Theatre Company and League of Resident Theaters. She made the leap to movies at age 50, sharing the big screen with A-list movie stars like Robert Redford, Jennifer Lawrence, Ryan Reynolds, Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal. Most recently, she was Grand Marshal in the Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade.

Leaders from the local African-American community have been invited to speak at the event. There will be free admission to the public and refreshments served. The performance will start at 7 p.m.

The DeKalb County Democrats held an open house for their new headquarters this week. The address is 205 Gault Ave N in Fort Payne. For more information, call (256) 364-2009.

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