MLK celebration grows in Benton

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published January 6, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 4, 2013 at 10:21 a.m.
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Wayne Bryan

Evelyn Reed, from the left, Karl Barnes and Robin Freeman carry the banner that will be used for the MLK Parade during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Celebration in Benton on Jan. 21. Reed and Freeman are organizers of the parade and other events held over four days starting Jan. 18. Barnes, president of the Ralph Bunche Neighborhood Association, will be the grand marshal of the parade.

— Residents of Benton are invited to take part in the city’s ninth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration that will be held Jan. 18-21.

“You do not have to be part of an organization to take part in the events,” said Robin Freeman, one of the event’s organizers. “You don’t have to have a float to be in the parade, You can just walk or march, people can drive their cars, or kids can ride their bikes. We want to encourage everyone to participate.”

Freeman said the theme of the celebration is “Be the Dream,” based on King’s challenge for people to ask, ”What are you doing for others?”

The MLK Parade will be at 4 p.m. Jan. 21. That is a new time for the event, Freeman said.

“We have made it later to give the people who have been involved in the day of service to finish up and have time to be part of the parade,” she said. “We usually have about 20 to 25 entries in the parade, and we hope to see that number increase this year.”

Participation in the parade is free, and applications may be picked up at the

office of the Central Arkansas Development Council, 321 Edison Ave.

Parade participants will line up in front of C.W. Lewis Stadium on Market Street. The parade will move up Market Street, then onto North Street to Main Street, and end at South and Main streets.

The grand marshal for the 2013 parade will be Karl Barnes, president of the Ralph Bunche Neighborhood Association and pastor of the Elect Temple Church of God in Christ in Benton.

“He is a great leader of the community,” Freeman said. “He has spearheaded some needed improvements in the community and is known by many people.”

Three spirit awards will be given out to participants after the parade, Freeman said.

Plans are being formulated for an event after the parade at Lewis Stadium.

“We’re still planning things, but we hope to have food for everyone, and speakers,” Freeman said. “It will be a good end of the day for everyone.”

The MLK celebration will begin Jan. 18 with a prayer breakfast at the Benton First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall on South Market Street.

On Jan. 19, there will be a community unity celebration at First United Methodist Church on North Market Street. There will be a dinner at 5 p.m., then a program that will offer something new.

“We will have a combined community youth choir,” Freeman said. “Of course, we are reaching out to the area churches, but it is open to any young person who wants to take part.”

Freeman said rehearsals are being planned, and times will be announced.

At 4 p.m. Jan. 20, there will be a memorial service at the Elect Temple Church on Johnson Street. The keynote speaker will be the Rev. Benny Johnson, founder of Stop the Violence in Little Rock.

The centerpiece of the MLK weekend is a day of service that will begin at 9 a.m. Jan. 21. Volunteers are asked to meet at the Ralph Bunche Community Park for a community cleanup. Lunch will be provided at noon by Mount Zion Church on South East Street. For more information, call (501) 551-2016.

Every year, the celebration includes the MLK Essay Contest for students in the Benton School District.

“Students are expected to write on the celebration’s theme, ‘Be the Dream,’” she said. “We have already gotten entries from the junior high school, but we generally have around 300 entries. There is still plenty of time, once school starts, for a child to work on their essay and get it in by the Jan. 11 deadline.”

The essay contest is sponsored by Everett Buick GMC and will award cash prizes for the top three winners in five grade categories. The winners will be announced at the community unity celebration Jan. 19.

“The event reflects what we can all do together to fulfill Dr. King’s dream for the country,” Freeman said.

For more information, call (501) 776-7475 or (501) 776-7122.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or

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