Monday marks the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. And the city of Southport will be commemorating the same way it has for more than twenty years—with a two-day festival that aims to inspire community involvement. This year the MLK Committee will also be celebrating the success its other initiative, Project Do Something. A joint effort with Brunswick County Schools, it serves to encourage students to perform acts of kindness and justice year-round—in tribute to Dr. King.
The celebration kicks off Sunday with a memorial march through town, followed by a ceremony to honor young people who’ve championed worthy causes and worked to raise awareness and funding for those in need, through Project Do Something. On Monday, a civil rights lawyer will be speaking at a community breakfast. Ralph Parker, who serves on the MLK Celebration Committee, says she’ll be speaking to the three tenets of the Southport celebration: Remember, Celebrate—and Act.
"The philosophy behind the celebrations—plural—is not how you celebrate, but that you do celebrate. And there’s no formula, no particular style, but that you celebrate it in your own way. We feel like our method of celebrating is not as loud and rambunctious as a parade, but we feel like we get across the points that we are trying to make."
The festival will culminate in the presentation of the Walter Welsh Award. Named for the late founder of the festival—a civil rights activist who Parker says retired in Southport in the seventies because of its active NAACP chapter—this annual award is presented to an individual who’s worked to promote greater racial harmony, tolerance and understanding in Southport.
***The Southport Memorial March begins Sunday at 3 PM in the parking lot of the ILA Hall, 10th and Lord Streets. At 3:45 a youth-oriented program including performances and presentations takes place inside the ILA Hall. At 8 AM on Monday the round-table breakfast is held in Murrow Hall at Trinity United Methodist Church. Breakfast tickets are $12 and can be purchased at most area churches.
***Wilmington's MLK parade kicks off Monday at 11 AM, and winds through downtown. This year, the parade will begin from 200 Hanover St. in front of the Wilma Daniels Art Gallery. The route will proceed south on Third Street to Princess Street and end at Fourth and Brunswick streets. All streets crossing the parade route will close at 10 AM. Parking will be available on downtown streets and in parking decks.
***Also in Wilmington: A Martin Luther King, Jr. Banquet at 6:30 PM on Friday, at the Wilmington Convention Center. N.C. Supreme Court Justice Cherie Beasley is the guest speaker. Tickets are $50 per person. There is also an NAACP/MLK Breakfast at 9 AM Saturday, at UNC-Wilmington’s Warwick Center. The Rev. Curtis Gatewood, NAACP coordinator for the Historic Thousands on Jones Street march, is the guest speaker. Tickets are $25.