Fort Smith Honors Martin Luther King Jr. with Series of Events Set for Jan. 11-23

A series of events spanning almost a week in January will honor the life and legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Sponsors of the events include the local Martin Luther King Jr. Community Association and the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.

Activities include a parade, two prayer services, an evening banquet, a breakfast followed by educational presentations and a march, an Unsung Hero Award announcement, a student-led panel discussing “Finding Your Voice in the Arts,” and a dramatic presentation by the daughter of a legendary civil rights lawyer.

The MLK Community Association’s theme for this year is “Out of a Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope.”

Celebratory events are:

Jan. 11:

The MLK Community Association has scheduled a parade for Jan. 11 as a kick-off of community events. Parade participants will gather by 12:30 p.m. for the parade beginning at 1 p.m. at Garrison Ave and N. 7th St. The parade will continue through downtown Fort Smith, with local bands performing. For more information, contact Deborah Woodard at 479-561-1349.

Jan. 15:

The Ministerial Alliance Prayer Service will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 15 at First Missionary Baptist Church, 3110 Kelly Hwy. For more information, contact Ministerial Alliance president Rev. Jerry Jennings at 479-785-1773.

Jan. 18:

An Awards and Recognition Banquet, including scholarships for area college students, is planned for 7 p.m. Jan. 18 in the Reynolds Room at the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center. Individual tickets are $30, with tables available for $350. Tickets are available from Bruce Wade at 479-379-7904 and are also available at the UAFS Box Office in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center.

Jan. 20:

Breakfast, which begins at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 20 in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center at UAFS, is free and open to the public. A full morning of activities is slated, including educational sessions provided by UAFS faculty and representatives from the MLK Community Association. A symbolic march, reminiscent of the freedom marches of the 1960s, will begin at approximately 9:45 a.m. and move from the Campus Center to the Reynolds Tower while the carillon plays “We Shall Overcome.” A brief ceremony will be held at the tower. For more information, contact Mark Horn, UAFS vice chancellor for university relations, at 479-788-7006.

Photo by Joel Rafkin ( )

Jan. 20:

An Ecumenical Prayer Service will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at St. James Missionary Baptist Church, 4916 High St. For more information, contact Bobbie Woodard Jones at 479-782-5756.

Jan. 23:

Crystal C. Mercer of Little Rock, daughter of legendary civil rights lawyer Christopher C. Mercer Jr., will give a dramatic performance Jan. 23 as part of “Unsung Heroes: Celebrating Freedom in the Visual and Performing Arts” at UAFS. Mercer is a freelance performance artist and sole proprietor of Columbus Creative and The Social Soapbox. She is also the company and production manager of The Unified Artists Movement, a non-profit theatre company. The 10 a.m. presentation will be held in the Reynolds Room of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center. The event will also include a student-led panel speaking on “Finding Your Voice in the Arts” and the presentation of the Unsung Hero Award given by the American Democracy Project at UAFS. For more information, contact Dr. Amy Jordan, campus coordinator for the ADP, at or 479-788-7295.

This is the third year for UAFS and the MLK Community Association, formerly the MLK Holiday Planning Committee, to join forces to honor and celebrate Dr. King.

The 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s speech titled “I Have a Dream” was celebrated in August 2013. The speech, which came during a March on Washington in 1963 and is among the most acclaimed speeches in U.S. history, called for an end to racism in the United States. In October 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, slated this year for Jan. 20, was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.


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