The 30th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will be a weekend of festivities and commemoration.

With various contests and events on tap, MLK Celebration Chairperson Fayrine Kennon-Gilbert said the focus of this year’s event will be centered on the youth. The theme is “The King in Me!”

“We want to use this year’s celebration to inspire the youth of Minden,” she said, “that there are others that have gone on to do exceptional and spectacular things with their lives. We’re trying to inspire them and mentor them. That’s why we’re using the theme, ‘The King in Me.’ You can be successful. You can achieve your goals.”

She said with bullying such as it is today, students who are bullied tend to shut down and not achieve their potential.

“We’re trying to inspire them to be successful,” she said. “You should aspire for the things Dr. King lived, aspire to get along with everybody, aspire for harmony, be friends. There’s no racial barrier with friends. Love everybody regardless and unconditionally. You show those traits, and that’s the King in you.”

Youth Mentoring/Basketball Tournament

The weekend will begin Saturday with youth mentoring skills and the basketball tournament at the Minden Recreation Complex gym. Elementary, junior high girls and boys teams and young adult teams will compete.

Kennon-Gilbert said the basketball clinic will be from 8 until 10 a.m., led by Derrick Parker and Nathaniel Hamilton, of Heartworks, where children will receive the opportunity to learn more about basketball.

“The MLK Celebration Committee is pleased to partner with Heartworks,” she said. “The children playing Little League basketball will be able to come to the clinic and participate in the tournament free of charge. They will work with individuals and teams.”

Parker played basketball at Minden High School, played at LSU-Shreveport and went on to play professionally overseas.

“We’re bringing in a lot of Minden natives this year to inspire the children that everything Dr. King dreamed of, you can see it go into existence,” she said. “Parker started playing Little League basketball in Minden and ended up playing professionally overseas.”

MLK Commemorative Service

At 3 p.m., the celebration will continue at St. Rest Baptist Church with the commemorative service. The keynote speaker will be the Honorable Dr. Kiki Baker-Barnes, athletic director of Dillard University and 2016 National Athletic Director of the Year.
The MLK Youth Leadership Award and Essay Contest winners will be presented.

MLK Youth Leadership Award

The MLK Youth Leadership Award is presented to outstanding students in each division, grades sixth through eighth and from grades nine through 12, for their dedication to social action, positive change and building bridges among races, cultures and communities and who aptly demonstrates the important aspect of service.

To be considered, nominated students must be a resident of Webster Parish, and the nomination letter must be written by a school official or organization sponsor specifically detailing the qualifying characteristics and activities of the student, along with the entry form.

The deadline to submit the letter of nomination and the entry form to Kennon-Gilbert is 6 p.m., Thursday. Entry forms and nomination letters may be mailed to 417 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Nominees must be in attendance of the 2017 citywide commemorative service.

Essay Contest

Essay contest winners will also be announced at the commemorative service for elementary (fourth and fifth grades), junior high (sixth through eighth grades), and high school (ninth through 12th grades) divisions.

The essay shall be the product of the student’s ideas, knowledge and research. It should contain 100 or more words for the elementary division, 250 or more for junior high and 400 or more words for the high school division. The essay may be typed, printed or neatly handwritten.

The essay will be judged on the following outline/criteria: Dr. King’s dream of unity and its purpose; the impact of the dream in the present day; and how you can continue the dream and change the future.

Poster Contest

The MLK poster contest will have cash prizes for first, second and third place: $25 for first place, $15 for second place and $10 for third place in each division.

Divisions include elementary, junior high and high school division.

The poster shall be the product of the student’s ideas and creativity and will be judged on the development of theme, color, originality/creativity and neatness.

The posters will be on display at Minden City Art Works on Main Street.

MLK Day events

An ecumenical unity march will be at 8 a.m., Monday, on MLK Drive.

Area ministers and community leaders will lead the unity march as participants sing and pray honoring the ministerial efforts of Dr. King and recommit to fostering unity in our community.

At 10 a.m., the MLK parade will take place in downtown Minden, with competition for the best decorated float, best band performance and most spirited group or organization. The grand marshal will be Minden High School Basketball Coach Rennie Bailey.

Immediately following the parade, approximately 11 a.m., will be the youth rally/forum at the Minden Civic Center. The winners of the parade contest, essay and poster contest winners will be announced.

MLK Celebration commemorative t-shirts will also be available. Proceeds from the purchase of the t-shirts will go to the Endow A Dream Scholarship.