The Alabama Association for the Arts hosts community talks and dinners on MLK Day

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – It’s the third Monday in January, also known as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and several Madison County church partners gathered Monday evening to pay tribute to Dr. King to celebrate and have a community talk and dinner.

The federal holiday honors the civil rights icon’s life around his birthday, but Jessica Fortune Barker, executive director of the Alabama Association for the Arts, said the holiday is about more than just celebration.

“We know that Dr. King’s speech is on the mountaintop; He talked about keeping the issues at the center of our work,” Barker said. “So tonight…even though it’s his birthday and we’re celebrating and just talking about Dr. King could talk… we really wanted to embody the whole essence of his legacy.”

Alabama Democracy Center state coordinator Douglas Bonner said it’s time the current generation built on King’s great work.

“This is our generation and our time to build on the great work that Dr. King and so many others have sacrificed their lives to give us the rights we have today,” he said.

EC Rentz II, coordinator of the Alabama Democracy Centers Huntsville, said the event was service-focused.

“All of this tonight is about service. It’s about everyone here who’s participating knowing that there is a need for people to participate through ministry,” he said.

The event, held at the Omega Center in Huntsville, included multiple speakers and performances.

“Not everyone is going to pick up the phone to call or email me, but today … there are real people here with real opinions, and we’re tackling real problems,” said Madison County Commissioner Violet Edwards. “So it’s very important for me to hear what they have to say.”

Jordan McNeal, a current A&M student from Alabama, said this was a great event for both the older and younger generations.

“We can learn a lot from the older generation – what they did right and what they did wrong,” McNeal said. “We need to embrace them and embrace their conversation, understand where they come from and how they were taught, and teach them our ways so that we can unite, so we can have an impact on the next generation to come.”

Engaged, educated and empowered – that’s what the organizers hope attendees will take away from this event and into the community.

“Anyone can be great because anyone can serve,” said Micheal Mathis, President of the Psi Kappa Kappa Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. “If we always maintain this serving spirit and always strive to help other people… someone else also wants to help us, so that we are never neglected and no one else is neglected. It’s definitely community-based and community-driven.”

If you would like to learn more about the Alabama Association for the Arts, you can find them here.