The Fulton branch of the NAACP will hold its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month celebration this Sunday.
This celebration event will be at 3 p.m. at the Guiding Light Missionary Baptist Church, 1023 Westminster Ave., Fulton. It's open to members of the public.
"The Fulton Branch is and has been active for so many years, and this annual celebration is a large part of the branch's activities and community involvement," Fulton NAACP member Sherry McBride-Brown said.
The Rev. Jack McBride, father of current NAACP President Anna Braxton, launched the annual celebration 25-30 years ago.
"It was one of his dreams to recognize the people who helped us along the way," Braxton said before the 2018 celebration.
The event often features speakers and music. This year's special guests include Annelle Whitt, district coordinator for Columbia's Multicultural Achievement Committee, and multicultural storyteller Kunama Mtendaji.
MAC is an educational support function of Columbia Public Schools, according to the CPS website. The MAC program is designed to provide students with the necessary skills and support they need to achieve success academically, emotionally and socially. It especially focuses on increasing the number of students from historically underrepresented demographics participating in honors, advanced placement and other rigorous courses.
Mtendaji is a drummer, storyteller and dancer focused on sharing African cultures and art forms with today's youth. Though born in St. Louis, his parents hail from Fulton, according to his website (kunamafolkarts.com), and he was raised in an environment steeped in story and song.
During his undergraduate years at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Mtendaji trained with master djembe drummer Mor Thiam. He became a staff drummer at the Performing Arts Training Center in East St. Louis, which was under the direction of the legendary dancer, writer and anthropologist Katherine Dunham.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and died April 4, 1968. He was a Baptist minister, activist and visible spokesperson and leader in the American civil rights movement from 1954-68.
King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
On Oct. 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the following year, he and the SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, he expanded his focus to include opposition toward poverty and the Vietnam War.
In 1968, King was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee. Ray fled the country and was arrested two months later at London Heathrow Airport. Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison for King's murder and died in 1998 from hepatitis while serving his sentence.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971, and it became a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.
First recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976, Black History Month has been an annual celebration in the U.S. of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of black people in U.S. history. The event grew out of "Negro History Week," the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans, that was created in 1926. This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12 and of Frederick Douglass on Feb. 14.
Black History Month was first celebrated in the United Kingdom in 1987 and in Canada in 1995.