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Human Relations Council honors Martin Luther King Jr. with modified fair

SALISBURY — Cars filtered through the parking lot at the Salisbury Civic Center on Saturday.

Some people planned to come to the resource fair, and others were waved down on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and lured in with Food Lion gift cards. The drive-thru event was the first of three this year hosted by the Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council honoring King’s legacy leading up to the national holiday that bears his name.

The event was simple: Drive through the lot and pick up a bag with information on community resources, school supplies and some personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer as well as the aforementioned Food Lion cards.

By October, the HRC knew it would need to do things differently this year. The council’s MLK celebration committee began to meet to discuss what changes it would need to make.

Mark Hill, co-chair of this weekend’s celebration, said the committee started thinking about how it could benefit the community in other ways throughout the year instead of focusing on one weekend.

Carl Blankenship/Salisbury Post – Human Relations Council member Dennis Rivers waving people in to the drive-thru. Volunteers coaxed a number of passersby to take part.

The council is donating hats and gloves to Rowan Helping Ministries, adopted a park and is looking at other ways to serve as well.

HRC Chair Dee Ellison said the changes may be uncomfortable, but the HRC wanted to keep the events significant and fulfill this year’s theme of being united in service and remembering the dream.

“Part of that dream and remembering is you do the work in the community,” Ellison said. “We feel we are providing a great resource for people and even though it’s not quite like it was last year.”

Ellison said as a child she first heard about King and learned more about his efforts to achieve equity in communities and get to a place where people were treated fairly.

“That became very important to me,” Ellison said. “Someone had to lay that ground work, so that is another reason it’s very important that we continue the dream, continue to do our work.”

Ellison said sometimes kids do not fully understand King’s work. The more that information can flow to the next generations, she said, the more they will benefit because they will realize the importance of his work.

Alex and Aaron Hill, Mark Hill’s sons and juniors at Rowan County Early College, were volunteering and handing out bags. They said the event can count as community service for Crosby Scholars, but they have already put in hours and thought it would be good to help people when COVID-19 has affected everyone one way or another.

Alex Hill said the holiday has been on his mind more amid difficult times.

Doris Goodman planned on coming Saturday. She said it is great the community is still trying to celebrate.

“I feel like the climate that we’re in right now, that there should not be any forgetting of the contributions of Martin Luther King,” Goodman said. “I think that we should try to continue to remember, to do work, to come together, to be the best city that we can possibly be. I think it’s critical.”

Goodman, who is in her 70s, said she remembers what happened when she was growing up and the struggle to get to where we are today.

“It’s critical that we come together and try to move forward,” Goodman said, adding that, if people to not come together, society will pull against each other without getting anywhere.

On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the HRC will host a day of service at 11 a.m. in Kelsey Scott Park. At 2 that afternoon, a virtual program will air on Facebook and WSRG-TV featuring messages from local leaders.

The well-attended MLK breakfast will not be held this year.

Mount Zion Baptist Church will host its annual MLK Awards program virtually, which can be viewed on Facebook on Sunday afternoon.

Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School will host a COVID-19 testing event on Monday afternoon in honor of the day, too.

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