FLORENCE — James Barnett said young people need to realize it takes a lot of work to reach a goal.
Barnett said that was the underlining message brought forward by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he worked for equal rights.
“Dr. King worked toward a goal of unity,” Barnett said. “We have to get that message to our young people. We have to stress to them the importance of working for a goal.”
Barnett said King also promoted a theme of service.
“Be a service to someone and serve somebody, that’s what he stood for,” Barnett said. “We can’t let that theme die.”
Barnett, vice president of the Northwest Alabama chapter of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, said those aspirations show the importance of the annual celebration.
“We’ve got to get young people involved so they can understand his message, what it meant and why it was so important,” Barnett said.
King was 38 when he was shot and killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Monday’s national holiday is held in observance of King’s Jan. 15, birthday.
This year’s event in the Shoals begins today with a gospel concert at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Leighton.
“We had a church full last year,” said the Rev. Charlie Burgess, president of the local celebration group. “It was some of the best gospel singing you ever want to hear. It will be just as good or even better this year.”
The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity will sponsor the 22nd annual Martin Luther King Jr., Unity Breakfast from 8-10 a.m. Monday at the Shoals Conference Center in Florence. All proceeds from the event go to the fraternity’s education foundation, which funds scholarships.
Other events will be in Florence at the Lauderdale County Courthouse and the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum.
After the breakfast, a bus will leave the Chucky Mullions Center in Russellville at 9 a.m. and begin making rounds to bring participants to Florence for festivities, Burgess said. The highlight events are rotated between the three counties.
The bus will make stops at Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in Tuscumbia and Gaston Chapel Primitive Baptist Church in Sheffield before proceeding to the Lauderdale County Courthouse in Florence, Burgess said.
Barnett said a short program will be held outside the courthouse before the event moves to the coliseum.
“Depending on the weather, we will either march or caravan from the courthouse to the coliseum,” Barnett said.
Anne Roy Moore, former Florence resident and former superintendent of education for Huntsville schools, will be speak at the coliseum event, which begins at noon.
“We also will have a youth choir and a youth speaker at the celebration,” Barnett said. “We usually have several hundred and I’m hoping for a good crowd this year to keep the message alive.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.