The Peace and Freedom Committee remembers the life and legacy of Dr. King

“He dreamed that he would receive a good education: an equal education. There’s nothing I can’t learn. He dreamed that I could drink from a good water fountain when I needed to quench my thirst. There’s no fountain that I don’t deserve,’ fifth grader Keelan English said outside the Palace Theater auditorium on Monday.

The 10-year-old Harrison Elementary student was the first speaker for the Peace and Freedom Committee’s MLK program on Monday, moving the socially distant crowd with her words.

“Martin dreamed so that I could dream. That’s what Dr. King’s life means to me,” he concluded.

While MLK Day for many is a day off from work, school, or activities, for Marion’s Peace and Freedom Committee, it is a day to continue the important work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -same.

Seemingly unfazed by inches of snow on the roads the previous night, hundreds of the Marion community gathered in the Palace Theater’s May Pavilion at 9 a.m. Monday for the 15th annual MLK Holiday Breakfast held with the help of the Marion Public Library and a grant from the Marion Community Foundation.

From prominent members of the community to event organizers to the families of students who were to be presented as winners of the art, essay, poetry and speech competition to the program to follow, the room was filled with a sense of awe for the day and excitement for the presentation to come.

Art category competition winner Tenlee Ryan (right) looks at her 2nd place award-winning artwork during the MLK Holiday Breakfast Monday.

The crowd then transferred and were joined by other attendees next door in the Palace Theater auditorium for the program featuring local speakers, an awards ceremony for the winners of the art competition, d essay, poetry and speeches like English and a keynote presentation by New York Times best-selling author Nic Stone.

Stone, an award-winning author from Atlanta, Georgia, birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., described her journey of learning to believe in herself as an author after years of not being able to relate to book characters due to the lack of positive portrayal of black characters, especially black women.

“At 23, I remember watching my husband say to him, ‘You know, I could never write fiction. I don’t have the imagination for that. I said that. And I believed,” Stone said.

It wasn’t until Stone read Veronica Roth’s Divergent series that she felt seen and represented by a character: a smart, fearless, and daring black woman named Christina. A gifted storyteller, it was there that she realized that she was capable of anything and that she began to write.

New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone was the keynote speaker at MLK's 15th Annual Breakfast and Program on Monday.

She asked members of the public on Monday to allow the power of stories to influence, inspire and create change in their lives, connecting with the legacy of Dr King’s story.

“Fiction begets truth, because it was while reading that I realized, ‘eh if a black girl can survive an apocalypse, maybe I can write a book.’ On this MLK day, I want you to think about MLK and its history and how its history has gotten us to where we are,” Stone said.

New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone's book Fast Pitch was proudly on display at the Committee for Peace and Freedom's MLK Breakfast on Monday.

“Think about his life story and think about how it relates to your life story.”

Each student who was selected as the winner of the art, essay, poetry and speech competition received an award and a copy of one of Stone’s most recent works, Fast Pitch, a story from his film favorite, The Sandlot, with black girls on a fastpitch softball team as the main characters written to represent young black female athletes.

Students took the stage, ranging from kindergarten to college-level speeches by Jessica Coleman, Keelan English’s mother, who featured after her son in a Mother & Son duet.

Coleman shared her speech, ‘A Conversation with the King’, sharing what she would say to Dr King if she had the opportunity to meet him and the responses she imagined he would provide to talk about her fear, his anger and his questions.

“I imagine her telling me that although it seems dark right now, the light will come: that she didn’t start by changing the world, she started by wanting a better one and then fight for this: for the future, for his children, for me, for my children. He was telling me that he had done it because it had to be done,” she said.

The Marion Peace and Freedom Committee kicked off its MLK Day celebration with a community breakfast at 9 a.m. Monday in the May Pavilion of the Marion Palace Theater.

Having organized the event to celebrate and honor Dr. King’s legacy, the Peace and Freedom Committee achieved this goal by celebrating Marion’s youth and showcasing the power of community collaboration.

As Peace and Freedom Committee Chair Dana Hanif-Booker delivered the MLK program’s closing remarks, she thanked the community for their dedication and partnership in following in King’s footsteps.

“We are fortunate and blessed to live in a community that can share in the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s National Day,” Hanif-Booker said.

Story by: Sophia Veneziano (740) 564 – 5243 | [email protected]

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