Wichitans will have a multitude of ways to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. in the coming days.
Several groups are holding events in honor of King, beginning Thursday and continuing through Jan. 19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
On Thursday – King’s birthday – the Wichita Alumni Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity is holding a free program celebrating all facets of King’s life. The event is at 7 p.m. at Calvary Baptist Church, 2653 N. Hillside.
While King is famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech, it is not the only thing he accomplished in his relatively short 39 years, said Kevin Graham, chairman of Alpha Phi Alpha’s MLK celebration.
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“To only focus on that event is to minimize, marginalize and even discredit the totality of the work that he did,” he said.
Members of the fraternity will speak about King’s life as an intellectual, family man, leader, peacemaker and agent of change. Graham said the point is to motivate members of the community to become change makers.
“If he (King) can do that in that short amount of time,” Graham said, “then it ought to inspire us to greatness, to get out there and impact somebody’s life by mentoring, making a difference in the community, volunteering; even getting out and running for office.”
The event will also have performances from an award-winning orator, the Calvary Baptist choir, a saxophonist and an interpretive dancer.
Also on Thursday, the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas and Storytime Village are partnering for a special screening of “Selma.” The movie details King’s march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 and the campaign for equal voting rights.
The event begins with a meet and greet of residents who had a part in the civil rights movement – such as Dockum sit-in participants Val and Jo Brown, Charles McAfee and George Boyd.
It continues with the movie screening at 7 p.m. The event is $25 per person or $20 per person for a group of eight or more. Tickets can be purchased at the Boys and Girls Club, 2400 N. Opportunity Drive. All proceeds will go to help children in the community.
On Saturday, the Christian Faith Centre, 1130 S. Broadway, is holding a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. The event is free for the first 150 people and $3 per person after that.
After the breakfast, children are invited to learn about King. The point is to expose the children to things they haven’t seen or heard about King, said the Rev. Wade Moore, senior pastor at the Christian Faith Centre.
“Everybody heard of ‘I Have a Dream,’ but there’s so much more to Dr. King than that,” Moore said. “So, we take them in the classroom … and teach them – for about 45 minutes – some of the things Dr. King stood for and some of this character and integrity and justice and things like that.”
Afterward, the children can join the MLK parade at 10 a.m. from the center to the Chester I. Lewis Reflection Square Park in downtown Wichita.
“We take them on an actual march,” Moore said.
Floats, cars, horses, fire officials and police will be included in the parade. Transportation will be provided for those who cannot make the journey on foot.
The Kansas African American Museum will be collecting books to send to Africa shortly after the parade. Books can be dropped off at the museum, 601 N. Water, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The books will be sent to the Village of Hope orphanage in Ghana. Materials will be available to allow those donating to put a personalized note in each book they leave.
The museum is also hosting a celebration Saturday at 7 p.m. at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, 1550 N. Chapel Hill. During the celebration, the museum will recognize community members who follow King’s message of peace, unity and nonviolence.
The event is free and open to all. It will include a group who will sing about King’s message of diversity and inclusion.
“When you consider a lot of the racial strife in the country today, his message is more relevant than ever,” said Mark McCormick, executive director of the museum.
The museum is selling $3 buttons to help support the event. Buttons can be found at five QuikTrip locations, P&P Seed and Bait, St. Mark United Methodist Church and the museum.
On Jan. 19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Greater Wichita Ministerial League will hold an MLK celebration at Wichita State University’s Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 29th Street North and Oliver.
The event, which begins at noon, will have a church service-like atmosphere, but it will still be a joyous event, said Moore, president of the Greater Wichita Ministerial League.
“Saturday is the learning and serving,” Moore said. “Monday is the celebration.”