Ninety-five years after his birth, he remains the nation’s most revered civil rights icon — with a legacy that is more relevant than ever.
And this month, two events are planned on the Coast to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his campaign for justice and equality. A Community Resource Expo is planned from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Jan. 13 at Orange Grove Community Center, and a special exhibit titled Clothes Story, honoring prominent Black women through fashion, will open Jan. 18 and remain through Feb. 22. at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.
CELEBRATING DIVERSITY, MEETING NEEDS
Angie Juzang, Legacy Business League president, Goodwill of South Mississippi chair and vice president of community relations for Memorial Health System, says organizers wanted to hold true to the type of initiatives that Dr. King, fought for — including fair housing, education and health care.
“The expo provides information and resources to help those who may need it overcome barriers to obtaining educational tools or contacts that can help them in their personal and professional endeavors,” she explains.
The event has proven popular in the past, with the expo drawing more than 500 people last year while roughly 150 attended an arts and culture celebration at the Ohr- O’Keefe. At the expo, Juzang says, vendors will represent areas ranging from entrepreneurship and health to housing assistance and senior services.
“Addressing income inequality, creating job opportunities and promoting equal pay are essential steps toward realizing economic equality for all,” Juzang says. “Dr. King’s dream includes a society where diversity is embraced and celebrated. Efforts to foster inclusivity, understanding, and appreciation for different cultures and backgrounds are essential.”
TELLING A ‘CLOTHES STORY’
This year, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum will pay homage to internationally significant ladies of color through replicas of the items they wore and treasured. Among those featured in the Clothes Story exhibit is Dr. Eliza Grier, the first black doctor to be licensed in Georgia, who will be represented through a statuesque blouse and cameo pin. Several Mississippians, including Grammy award-winning opera vocalist Leontyne Price, actress Cassi Davis-Patton and model, businesswoman and author Naomi Sims, also will be highlighted.
Produced and directed by Atlanta-based Kenneth Green, this experience has been curated from the perspective of a fashion enthusiast, not a historian or designer. All clothing pieces are fabricated from archived pictures and cultural repositories. Green has said that he hopes the exhibit experience sparks dialogue among family and friends around clothing, values and women’s contributions to our culture.
David Houston, executive director of the Ohr-O’Keefe, says the display advances the museum’s mission of African American heritage projects.
“It is a time capsule of evolving fashion, but also celebrates the pioneering lives of accomplished women of talent and perseverance,” he adds. An opening celebration on Jan. 18, featuring a concert by cellist Garfield Moore and remarks from Green, will be held from 5-7 p.m. in the museum’s welcome center.
HONORING THE LEGACY
Juzang notes that holding such events, which benefit the underserved and disenfranchised, is important to help people reach their full potential. Helping others and pointing them toward available resources, she adds, also is a way to honor the sacrifices of trailblazers like Dr. King — who risked and sacrificed all for the rights and privileges many enjoy today.
“By remembering (Dr. King’s) legacy, we acknowledge the progress made in the fight against discrimination while recognizing that there is still work to be done, and we honor the ongoing struggle for civil rights and equality,” Juzang says. “It serves as a reminder that societal transformation requires collective effort and a commitment to justice — principles that remain relevant and significant in our evolving world.”
DID YOU KNOW?
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is observed annually as a national holiday on the third Monday of January. The celebration falls this year on Jan. 15.
- According to the National Constitution Center, the effort to formalize a holiday in King’s honor took 32 years and a lot of campaigning. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill making the observance official in November 1983, and the first federal King holiday was celebrated in 1986.
- Today, the holiday serves multiple purposes: commemorating King’s legacy; focusing on the ongoing issue of civil rights, highlighting the use of nonviolence to promote change and calling people into public service.