Service projects, awards programs, parades mark U.S. holiday

1/17/2014, 7:09 a.m.

Across metro Atlanta and the nation, children and adults have been volunteering, marching, talking, preaching and rallying in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 85th birthday.

On Jan. 20, the nation will observe King Day. The theme of the federal holiday, which also is observed in more than 100 countries worldwide, is “Remember! Celebrate! Act! King’s Legacy of Peace for Our World.”

Thousands of local volunteers will clean and beautify schools, parks, and community and nonprofit centers, and others will march in parades and rallies in Decatur and Atlanta.

All this week, the Atlanta-based King Center, churches, colleges, museums and governments as well as civic, community and social organizations have marked King’s Jan. 15, 1929, birthday with conversations, awards ceremonies, volunteer projects, dramatic productions, readings, music, and film screenings.

‘Salute to Greatness’

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali and Xerox Inc. will be honored Jan. 18 at the King Center’s annual “Salute to Greatness Awards” at the Hyatt-Regency in downtown Atlanta.

Ali, who picked up an Olympic gold medal in 1960 in Rome at 18, won the heavyweight crown three times. He ended his career with 56 wins, 37 by knockout, and five defeats.

In 1967, claiming that “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,” he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War. Ali was stripped of his title, all his boxing matches were canceled, and he was facing a five-year prison term before the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and upheld his conscientious objector claim.

The King Center said he has inspired millions worldwide.

“He gave people hope and proved that anyone could overcome insurmountable odds,” it said. “He gave people courage. He made fighters of us all.”

Khalida Brohi

Khalida Brohi

The center also will present the annual Coretta Scott King A.N.G.E.L. – Advancing Nonviolence Through Generations of Exceptional Leadership – award to Khalida Brohi, Pakistani women rights activist and founder and director of Sughar Empowerment Society, and Eve Ensler, Tony Award-winning playwright and founder of V-Day.

The award recognizes young leaders ages 12 to 25 and groups or initiatives that exemplify exceptional leadership in areas of peace, social justice and nonviolent social change.

Through her organization, Brohi, 24, provides tribal and rural women with opportunities to grow their skills and learn leadership skills. She launched Sughar – which means “skilled and confident woman” – in 2009. Her plan is to change the lives of a million women in Pakistan over the next decade.

Eve Ensler

Eve Ensler

Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues,” is the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. “The Vagina Monologues” has been published in 48 languages and performed in more than 140 countries.

The “Salute to Greatness Awards” program is one of the highlights of the 2014 King birthday observance and is the King Center’s major fundraising event. It takes place in the Centennial Ballroom.

The hotel is at 265 Peachtree St. N.E. Tickets are available at www.thekingcenter.org/salute- greatness-award-2014.

Fairington Community Service Day

Volunteers will paint, clean and landscape Fairington Elementary School on its inaugural Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Day on Jan. 20.