For the 31st consecutive year, state and local leaders gathered with members of the community to share a message of unity and love.
The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Celebration welcomed a large crowd Monday at Abilene Baptist Church, emceed by Richmond County and Aiken County schools superintendents Dr. Angela Pringle and Dr. Sean Alford, respectively.
The ceremony welcomed worship leaders from Augusta, Appling and Fort Gordon to lead the congregation in old and new Testament lessons. Members of the MLK Day Choir also performed.
Local leaders included Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis and Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross. State Rep. Lee Anderson and U.S. Rep. Rick Allen were also in attendance along with Burke County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rudolph “Rudy” Falana. Each gave a greeting and brief statement to audience members.
At the celebration, Augusta Commissioner William Fennoy announced to a standing ovation that The King Foundation in Atlanta has agreed to bring a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Augusta.
“We are working with our facilities department to find a place that’s appropriate that will be a destination location,” Fennoy said to applause.
Davis offered his thoughts on the importance of the day.
“It is a day of service. It is not a day off, it is a day on,” Davis told the congregation. “May we be reminded of these things, beyond today. ”
Cross spoke to the importance of honoring King and the history of Columbia County making the change to give employees the day off.
“When I first took office in 2003, one of my main objectives was to have a holiday for county employees for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which until that time it had not been allowed,” Cross said. “But over time and after talking to my fellow commissioners and telling them that of all the people that we honor, the one that came closest to delivering the message of Jesus Christ is that we love one another.”
“When you look at something as profound as that and take it to heart, no one can say let’s not do this time to honor this gentlemen.”
Anderson shared his thanks for the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Thank God for his vision, that we will be good citizens, no matter what comes, because our heavenly father created each and every one of us, each and every one of us,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t matter what color.”
Allen spoke to the rise in poverty along with the need to put the word of God back into schools and its community members.
“Folks, we have got to turn back to what led Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to be called into authority,” he said. “We have got to turn back to the word of God.”
The event is coordinated and conducted by The Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Celebration Committee CSRA. Each year, the group awards members of the community with several awards.
The Community and Education Award was given to Dr. Brad Whitt and Abilene Baptist Church; The Community Service Award was given to Stolkin Court #173; The Outstanding Service of 31 Years to the MLK Committee Award was given to the Rev. Satchell Doyle; The Rosa Parks Icon Courage Award was given to Rae Canady; The Distinguished Service of Unquestionable Courage, Sacrifice and Loyalty Award was given to Evans Moore, 100, who is a WWII Veteran of Valor; The Highly Distinguished Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Life and Legacy Award went to Dr. K.B. Martin, pastor at Antioch Baptist Church.