Sunday, January 20, 2008

State of Iowa's Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Renowned civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., will be remembered Monday during the state of Iowa's 19th annual King celebration.

The event, which is called "Honor the life: Martin Luther King," is expected to draw about 300 people and was organized by the Iowa Commission on the Status of African-Americans. The celebration will held from 10: 45 a.m. to noon at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust St., in Des Moines.

"King is our blazing American example," said Abraham Funchess, the commission's division administrator. "His practical politics benefited the politically oppressed and the disposed."

Other events across the state and nation will honor the civil rights icon during Monday's federal holiday.

Featured speaker at the commission's event is Leonard Pitts Jr., a 2004 Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Miami Herald. Gov. Chet Culver is scheduled to give the opening address. Daniel Lee Davis, a classically trained violinist, also will perform. A question-and-answer session with Pitts will follow the celebration.

Three Iowans will be honored at the celebration. State Rep. Wayne Ford of Des Moines will receive the commission's newly created Pinnacle Award. Mary Stinson, of Burlington, and nationally-renowned teacher Ruth Ann Gaines, of Des Moines, will receive King Lifetime Achievement awards.

The commission created the Pinnacle Award to celebrate Iowans who are "innovators," Funchess said.

"This is award is for people who are doing serious things to improve the plight of black folks," he said. "To remind people that this is what King was truly about."

King, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, led the civil rights movement during the 1950s and `60s. He preached nonviolent protest and led marches and sit-ins to secure equal rights for blacks. His "I Have a Dream" speech was heard by hundreds of thousands during a historic rally in Washington, D.C., in 1963. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968 and his birthday became a national holiday in 1983.

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