For more than 30 years the Martin Luther King Jr. Association has held a Candlelight Ceremony to recognize individuals and organizations in our community who emulate the work and legacy or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In past years, police officers, firemen, community activists, educators, college students, and numerous others have been honored with awards for community service, humanitarian activities, and fulfilling the “Spirit of Dr. King.”
At the 2016 service, the keynote speaker, Rev. Clark Olsen, discussed his experience in Selma, Alabama during Bloody Sunday in 1965. He and two other white ministers stood up for what is right at great personal risk in their belief that all men are created equal. Rev. Olsen came back unharmed physically, but his colleague Rev. James Reeb, who was with him in Selma, gave his life for others’ freedom.
It is partially for this reason the Candlelight Ceremony for 2017 will be held at Central United Methodist Church downtown. The service has always been held in traditionally African American churches, whose hosting of the event has been gracious and generous. The 2017 Candlelight planning committee wished to broaden the reach of the service by locating it at a primarily white congregation for the first time.
In the words of Candlelight Committee chairwoman Karen Cowan, “Freedom is an action word, and we must act together as one community to pursue freedom and liberties for all people. Dr. King famously said, “All of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last’.”
Cowan noted another difference in this year’s ceremony. “We are also moving away from just speeches and certificates; we will challenge you to take action, get involved. Let’s make a difference together.”
To that end, the service will include a performance by actor Drez Ryan, who portrayed Dr. King in a Different Strokes theater production of The Mountaintop. Ryan is from central Florida and has appeared in numerous plays, short features, and local commercials, and currently co-stars in the web series Transplanting.
“We are very thankful to Steph Hickling Beckman, managing Artistic Director for Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective for arranging and allowing the monologue from The Mountaintop to be performed at the 2017 Candlelight Ceremony,” said Cowan.
The service will also feature a PowerPoint presentation with vocal performance by Asheville native LaQuanna Hines Edwards, and a solo performance by local singer Damien McDay. Students from Christ School and Francine Delany New School for Children will jointly serve as ushers for the evening.
The 2017 Award recipients will be DeWayne Barton, Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Rev. Jazz Cathcart, Melissa Murphy, and Willie Vincent—an inspirational group of citizens who have chosen, in the words of the 2017 MLK Celebration theme, to “Stand Up! Speak Out! and Unfold the Dream for Today!”
For more information or details about the Candlelight Service, contact committee chair Karen Cowan at (828) 768-8599.