OLEAN — Organizers of the upcoming annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. event said that, as always, young and old are enthused in preparing for the celebration at 4 p.m. Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church at 212 Laurens St.
The event will be held in honor of Martin Luther King Day observed on Jan. 20.
“We don’t ever want to let this go because it’s a very important event,” said Jan Rhody, who is organizing the event with Ola Mae Gayton.
Rhody noted the theme of the celebration, which is free and open to the public, is “A Dream Deferred: Equality, Liberty and Justice for All Mankind.”
In addition to music, dance and presentations, the event will include a potluck community supper afterwards in the church.
“The church has been so supportive and they’re there again” to offer the venue, Rhody added.
“One nice thing is that the Olean High School Concert Choir is going to perform.”
Rhody, a music teacher at Olean High, noted the school has three different choirs that have rotated taking turns to sing during the event.
She said visitors at the celebration will also be treated to the young “Stars for Christ” dancers, who will be led by their new director, Shaniqua Gayton.
“That’s going to be exciting because she’s working them hard,” Rhody said of the dancers, who have been a crowd favorite in the past. “I guess the highlight would be all of the young people who are involved, it’s really an exciting aspect of it … it connects them to Martin Luther King and his messages.”
For her part, Ola Mae Gayton said she, too, believes the event is shaping up well.
“Everything is in order,” Gayton said, noting she plans to give a presentation titled “The Spoken Word.
“It’s just to remind us what the Civil Rights Movement was, what Dr. King was with sit-ins, marches and singing,” she said of her presentation. “It’s not just the nice words he said (but the presentation will remember) the violence, people jailed, guns and hurt and all that.
“It will be a mixture of where America has been and where it is trying to go,” she continued.
Gayton said she is pleased the community honors King yearly, but she also wants everyone to remember that the current attitudes held by society were obtained at a costly price for many people, including King, who lost their lives over the injustices.
“You don’t just talk about (King’s) speeches and you don’t just get up and talk about the marches and the sit-ins,” she remarked. “You talk about the real struggle and the real things that were happening during the struggles.”
Furthermore, she said the event is meant to show the community that racial inequality and problems still exist.
“Especially when we commemorate this day — we need to be reminded that the struggle still continues,” she stated.
As for the program, master of ceremonies will be Tchiana McPeak; welcome and announcements will be provided by Rev. Bruce Levine; and the opening prayer will be provided by Rev. Gerald Slack Sr.
Other presentations will include the “Words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” by Mia Rivera and musical presentations by the First Presbyterian Church Choir under the direction of Rick Snyder.
The closing prayer will be provided by Rev. Tyrone Hall.
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)