LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- In 2013, the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission is stronger than ever. The dedicated, 13-member commissioners work together in carrying out the mission to continue the realization of King's long-ago dream.
It's been 20 years since the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission came into being, born from legislation written by former State Rep. Josetta Wilkins to create it, and signed by former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.
Over that 20 years, the commission has had its triumphs and its challenges. But it grew, morphed and persevered, establishing myriad programs ... from a Salute to Greatness Gala to the Arkansas African American History Makers Coloring Book, Volume IV celebrating Black History Month.
In February 2012, the commission held its first-ever Black History program - "A New Beginning," a daylong nonviolence youth summit that included various breakout sessions teaching nonviolence, anti- bullying, and other topics - in the town of Harrison, Ark. The event helped put a distance between the town and its longtime reputation as a Ku Klux Klan stronghold and hotbed of racism.
Executive director DuShun Scarbrough marched through Harrison alongside Jeff Crockett, the mayor of Harrison, as well as 200 students - representing various ethnicities - from schools throughout Arkansas. The march began from the Durand Center to the City Hall where Scarbrough, Mayor Crockett and other city officials and dignitaries denounced racism in the city of Harrison and spoke on unity and the importance of diversity and equality. The commission is gearing up for part 2 of this Nonviolence Youth Summit.
To celebrate its 20th birthday and reflect upon its accomplishments, the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission is hosting a celebration from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, at the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Dr. Wilkins and former Gov. Tucker are expected as honored guests. Former executive director Tracy Steele is also expected to be in attendance.
"It's going to be exciting to gather all of the people who were involved in the humble beginnings of the Commission, and who worked to make Dr. King's tenets a reality," Scarbrough said.
The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission (AMLKC) is a state-run organization. The purpose of the Commission is to:
*Promote racial harmony; understanding; community service; respect and goodwill among all citizens.
*Promote principles of nonviolence.
*Promote awareness and appreciation of the Civil Rights movement and advocacy of the principles and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
*Develop, coordinate and advise the Governor and General Assembly of ceremonies and activities throughout the state relating to the observance of Dr. King's Holiday.
In a day where racism sometimes continues to rear its ugly head, these Arkansans - led by Chairman Phil E. Kaplan - know they cannot afford to rest on their laurels or allow any differences among themselves to overshadow their vital work ... work that includes:
• An Annual Nonviolence Youth Summit - Anti-Bullying Conference.
• Dream Keepers. The Dream Keepers Program helps empower youth to gain an appreciation for community service through team work. Dream Keepers involvement helps youth make choices that will have a positive impact on their lives.
• L.E.A.D. (Leadership, Education, Acceptance, and Diversity), a program that prepares young people for leadership roles for the future.
• City Wide Clean Up, a part of The National Day of Service celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK Day)-a national holiday that honors the legacy of the civil rights leader Dr. King through a day of service and volunteering.
• The Martin Luther King, Jr. Vigil, held April 4 and commemorating the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King.
"What is important about the AMLKC are the young people," Scarbrough said. "I want to make sure they will be ready to meet the challenges to keep promoting racial harmony for the betterment of humanity ... and maybe one day one of our L.E.A.D. students will become the executive director."
For more information about the 20th Anniversary of the AMLKC, call (501) 683-1300.