Special events scheduled in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

File photo: People look on during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Wreath Memorial Ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

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Posted January 10, 2023 |

Marion County will join the rest of the nation in honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend with a full slate of events ranging from a prayer breakfast and wreath-laying ceremony to a day of fun for the area’s children and a commemorative march.

The third Monday in January has been designated a federal holiday to remember the slain civil rights activist. Beginning as the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama from 1954 to 1965, King rose to international prominence as the leading voice for equality and social justice in America and around the world until he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. This year, he would have been 94 years old.

Marion County’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission will host several events in Ocala from Saturday through Monday to honor King.

The events begin with a prayer breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place, 1812 NW 21st Ave, Ocala. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by contacting Lorretta Jenkins at 352-351-0824. At 1 p.m., the center will host a youth day event. Children of all ages are invited to attend this free event, which will include kid-friendly activities such as face painting, basketball, volleyball and arts and crafts.

A wreath-laying ceremony will also be held on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex, 595 SW Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.., Ocala. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Cassandra Boston at 352-209-2973.

On Sunday, an ecumenical service will be held at 5 p.m. at the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, 55 SW Third Ave., Ocala. Residents are encouraged to participate and will have the opportunity to sing in a group or solo, play drums or guitar. For more information, contact Shirley Wright at 352-732-0097.

The commemorative slate of events culminates Monday with a MLK Day march. Participants will gather at 8 a.m. in Ocala’s Downtown Square and the march will begin at 9 a.m. and end at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex. After the march, there will be a Day in the Park event, featuring feature food, vendors and entertainment.

“This year is a shorter time frame for Day in the Park,’’ said Te’sha Jackson, chairperson of the “Day in the Park” event. “This year will be compact with substantial entertainment, support from youth, high schools, middle schools, and food trucks. This would probably be the year that we get more full participation since we are not in the pandemic anymore.”

Jackson said she encourages families to come out and enjoy the festivities while remembering the reason for the event: to give credit to King for all of his good works.

“I think it’s great for communities to come together and honor his legacy, especially with some of the ups and downs of things that have been happening in the community with deaths and violence,’’ she said. “We need to rally together because we are stronger together in numbers. I hope it motivates people to do the day of service because it’s actually an in-service day for MLK.”

For more information about any of the MLK Day events, contact Dr. Dwanette Dilworth at 352-207-6036.