The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in Arlington has big plans in 2014 for its four-day 25th-anniversary event, which starts Friday.
This year’s theme, “Advancing the Dream: The Time is Now,” will focus on the progress made throughout the country more than 50 years after King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“No other city has a celebration that long for Dr. King,” event chairwoman Cheryel Carpenter said. “We’re really excited about the changes and great things this city has to celebrate.”
The events in Arlington are just a few of the many set for cities across North Texas this weekend and Monday.
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The Greater Fort Worth Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Committee has planned the 29th annual Evening Celebration and Scholarship Awards Banquet on Saturday at Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus. State Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, will be the keynote speaker. Tickets are $50 per person.
The annual parade will be held at 11 a.m. Monday and will begin at the Convention Center, travel north on Commerce Street to Belknap Street, west on Belknapto Houston Street, south on Houston to Sundance Square Plaza.
High school bands from Fort Worth and other cities will perform afterward.
In Mansfield, Bethlehem Baptist Church will host its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at 5 p.m. Sunday at the church, 1188 W. Broad St.
State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, will be the keynote speaker for the event, which is themed “The Audacity of Hope.”
Admission is free.
In Arlington, new events will feature the Living Legends Awards, which will be presented to two people chosen by the committee. The recipients are people Carpenter said the committee felt exemplified the ideals of King, who are active in the community and who have made a large impact on the city and Tarrant County.
The committee will work with the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries to house a special collections unit filled with memorabilia from the past 25 years, Carpenter said. The exhibit will feature artwork, essays, photos, videos and more and will be displayed later this spring.
Other events include a youth musical extravaganza, step show, spoken word show and multicultural festival.
Former Arlington Mayor Elzie Odom said the multicultural festival is one of the most exciting aspects of this year’s celebration.
“To me, that means more than anything else,” Odom said. “Trying to involve everybody, that’s the most important thing.”
Odom served as the event chair for several years and has made a point to attend the celebration every year since its inception in 1989. He also helped with fundraising and marketing the event to the city.
To Odom, the importance of this celebration is gathering the community together to realize the progress made in the past 50 years and to continue to grow using King’s message.
“Our country today needs now more than ever to put down the hate, the distrust, and learn to love one another, trust one another,” he said. “Those are the things this celebration is trying to advance. That’s the problem with our country and it’s going into our families and communities. We need to get it out of a kid’s mind that if he doesn’t like his English teacher to go buy a gun and shoot him.”