January seems to have a large number of famous birthdays in it. Few, however, rival that of Martin Lu-ther King, Jr., in significance. This native-born Atlantan, whose life ended so tragically, was one of Amer-ica’s most important leaders of the 20th century and one of the few outstanding individuals whose birthday is a national holiday.
Although a figure of national and international prominence, King’s life and work have always been an in-tegral part of his home city. Born on Auburn Avenue in 1929, his birth home remains a major site along with the nearby Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, including his gravesite, and the museum facilities of the National Park Service across Auburn Avenue. All are near the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and are within easy walking distance of each other for those who want to honor King on his Jan. 19 birthday by visiting these places.
The King Holiday Observance in Atlanta runs Jan. 10 through the national holiday itself on Jan. 20. There will be many televised memorials, but individuals can also celebrate his life in other more active ways. The MLK Day 5K run will be held in Piedmont Park with an expected 4,000 participants this year and there will be a march and rally on Auburn Avenue. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will perform a concert tribute to King at Morehouse College.
Many people will acknowledge the Civil Rights leader with a day of service. This tradition has grown signifi-cantly in recent years and encourages volunteer work at a variety of places. There is now a website at www.volunteermatch.org/seasonsofservice/mlkday to help those interested in finding appropriate organizations needing volunteers.
To find out more about scheduled events celebrating Atlanta’s most famous native son, go to www.thekingcenter.org. There are seemingly endless possibilities. The King Center is located at 449 Auburn Avenue. You can also contact it at 404-526-8900.
– Dick Funderburke