The Hilton Head MLK Committee for Justice has gone into high gear to plan its annual events that are held each January in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. The theme for 2022 is “Only love can drive out hate.”

Activities kick off Jan. 8 with a concert, “Celebrate MLK: A Music Extravaganza,” starting at 7 p.m., at Christ Lutheran Church, 829 William Hilton Parkway. The event will feature the MLK Community Choir, which continues to seek singers to join in.

Musical selections will include Lowcountry gospel, blues, Motown and American standards. Featured vocalists include Bessie Bates, Scott Gibbs, Terry Herron, Rick Radcliff, Nicky Riley and John Simmons.

To join the choir, call or text 843-271-9919. Tickets are $20 each and are available at Masks will be required. Proceeds will support the MLK Committee for Justice.

An Ecumenical Community Worship Service will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 13 at St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church, 20 Pope Ave. All are welcome to attend this free event.

The following evening, a Shabbat will be offered at Congregation Beth Yam, starting at 6 p.m. The synagogue is located at 4501 Meeting St. and welcomes all visitors.

To honor Dr. King with a Day of Service, a cemetery cleanup will be held Jan. 15, starting with breakfast for volunteers at 8 a.m., at All Saints Episcopal Church, 3001 Meeting St.

Volunteers will be directed to selected cemeteries for cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon.

The annual  MLK Memorial March will commence at 10 a.m. Jan. 17 at Hilton Head Island High School, in the main parking lot.

Following the march, a Memorial Program will be held at 11 a.m. at the Seahawk Cultural Center on the campus. The keynote speaker will be Sen. Mia McLeod, who represents District 22 in the S.C. Legislature.

The program also will include worship, speakers, music, and the presentation of the MLK Community Service Award.

A friendship luncheon will follow at 12:30 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria.

The origins of the Hilton Head MLK Committee for Justice date back to the 1980s, from what current president Galen Miller remembers. The intention was to celebrate the birthday and legacy of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and strengthen the community by promoting his legacy of love, equality, peace and civil rights.  Over many years, the committee has become well known for its annual celebration of Dr. King’s life. 

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, the committee responded by organizing a “Rally for Justice and Change” in Chaplin Park on Hilton Head. More than 1,000 people joined in solidarity to peacefully protest.

The size of this crowd inspired the committee to expand its scope and broaden its mission. It now seeks to “celebrate diversity and embrace the ideals of inclusion and equity. Through non-violent action, [members] strive for social justice and positive change with emphasis on civic action, education, community events and service.”

The committee has grown in size. Miller continues to be the committee’s knowledgeable, calm, focused and kind leader. He understands that the committee’s work needs to be year-round and multi-dimensional, to include education, civic action, community events and service.

One on-going service project is to clean up historic Gullah cemeteries on Hilton Head Island and Daufuskie Island.

When COVID-19 arrived on our island, learning for students became virtual. The committee discovered that a number of families could not afford internet connectivity.

Believing that a child’s education should not be stalled due to poverty, the committee applied for a grant and sought donations. Members worked with local schools and Hargray to bring internet connections to many families who were without.

In October and November 2021, the committee partnered with Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services and the Boys and Girls Clubs in Hilton Head and Bluffton to bring vaccinations to those who had not yet received them. A mobile unit equipped with a doctor, nurses and bilingual professional staff, made for two efficient, safe and meaningful drive-through vaccine clinics.

Competence, kindness and carefulness are hallmarks of this group.

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