Record attendance for the 35th annual MLK Day of Celebration
Nearly 2,000 people showed up for the 35th Annual MLK Day of Celebration at the Lansing Center hosted by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan. One of the biggest celebrations in the state for the civil rights icon also commemorated the 55th anniversary of the Selma March and paid tribute to Congressman John Lewis.
Attendees were surrounded by food, music and fellowship. One of them was Herb Price, Epsilon Tau Sigma Chapter President for Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.
"You see people of all races, ethnicities, backgrounds gathering together as one to commemorate the work of Dr. King," said Price.
Kelli Ellsworth- Etichson with the MLK Commission said the message is to share the legacy of Dr. King and to encourage others to join the fight against civil injustice.
"He's our big voice but the civil rights movement is more than just Dr. Martin Luther King, but we are doing him a disservice if we don't continue the legacy and continue to let the young people know about this fight," said Ellsworth-Etichson.
The theme of this year's celebration was "there comes a time when silence is betrayal." Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist talked to News 10 about the theme and tribute to U.S.Representative John Lewis who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
"One of the things I wanted to speak to was when we're thinking about Congressmen John Lewis, and we all are praying for him as he battles with this cancer fight that he's in right now. He was a young person when he took those monumental steps. When he was on the Edmund Pettus steps; when he was on the movement. We need to make sure that young people have seats at the table so they can have leadership opportunities and responsibilities as we push forward and we don't always make that possible. So I wanted to make sure that people heard that challenge today too," said Gilchrist.
The Commission says the message is one that is meant to go beyond this one day.
"If someone sees something that is not right we want people to speak up and stand up and so that's what we want to see. We want people to be more engaged with the civil rights movement so we're just glad to be able to serve this great community," said Ellsworth-Etichson.
The keynote speaker for the event was Andrew Aydin, the award-winning author and top aid for Congressman John Lewis. Together they wrote a three-volume graphic memoir about Lewis' experiences in the Civil Rights Movement.
The MLK Commission has events and works with the community throughout the year. They focus on literacy, youth violence, hunger, mentoring, education and community enrichment.