"When we come together that weekend and have a candlelight service and youth rally and a parade and a program climaxing [the activities] at the civic center, we are celebrating," said Linda Ford Kellogg, chairperson of the local Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee. "And it's not just that Martin Luther King lived and died, we're celebrating what he stood for and then the action is in the activities.
"We like to remember that it's not just a day that you're off of work or out of school, it's a day that you can be of service because I quote Dr. King, 'Everybody can be great because they can serve.' And I love saying that. Whether you participate in any of these weekend events that we have planned, really you can do something on that weekend or that Monday if you want to remember, celebrate and act. Because volunteerism and also just being of service in your community, is a wonderful thing."
A federal and state holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day marks the Civil Rights leader's birthday and is recognized on the third Monday in January. Even though it has been more than 43 years since King was assassinated, Kellogg said his message still is relevant today and needs to be shared, especially with the younger generation.
"I think about how hard it must have been for him because he was so unselfish," she said. "He had to be unselfish because he wasn't just doing this for himself, and that's really what I think about -- how unselfish he was and what a great contribution that he made to help so many others. Bottom line is I just think he had to be unselfish. It wasn't a me, myself and I thing.
"My personal message that I'm trying to get out is -- especially when there's a lot of violence going on, especially among young people -- that if you want to remember Dr. King, remember that he was nonviolent and I cannot emphasize that enough this year. He didn't bully anybody. He didn't threaten anybody with a gun and he was threatened with guns and stuff but he was nonviolent."
On Sunday, the King Holiday Weekend Celebration will begin with a 6 p.m. candlelight service at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 147 Jones St. in Cartersville, featuring Dr. Angela Harris with Dalton State College as the keynote speaker. Along with the Drum Major Award being presented to a local resident, music and singing will be provided by The MLK Community Choir.
The festivities will resume on Monday with a youth rally from 10 a.m. to noon at St. Luke A.M.E. Church, 130 Jones St. in Cartersville. Youth are invited to pay tribute to King's life with songs, skits, poetry and dance.
The day's events also will include a Brotherhood March at 2 p.m. Participants will assemble at the Cartersville Civic Center -- 435 W. Main St. -- at 1:15 p.m. Grand Marshals Rev. Horace Lee and Ruth Jones will lead the procession to the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center, 135 W. Cherokee Ave. After a wreath-laying ceremony, the crowd will return to the civic center for a Brotherhood March Program that will feature a message from Rev. Reginald McDaniel with Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Calhoun.
"My message is basically about ... unity and at the same time continuing to persevere," McDaniel said. "I felt led to be a part of [this program] basically because of the fact that I feel that through this particular message, it can inspire the next generation.
"The importance of unity is simply the fact that when individuals become united, then they can become more of an impact on their society and ... on the things that plague their society. And they can become more of a working force in that society to just make change happen."
For more information about the King Holiday Weekend Celebration, call 770-382-7951 or 770-865-1797. Details about Monday's youth rally can be obtained by contacting 678-368-3583.