Carter County Drug Prevention to hold MLKJ celebration

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was part of a movement whose legacy is felt decades later, and many organizations are organizing memorial or celebration events in honor of his achievements.

The Carter County Drug Prevention coalition is partnering with various organizations across Elizabethton to host a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy.

Director of the coalition Jilian Reece said this is the second year they have organized this event.

“Reverend Jeanette Clark is a tremendous asset to this event,” Reece said. “She organizes a community choir and also has Tracey Haynes come to recite the ‘I have a dream’ speech in its entirety.”

Many civil rights groups or other diversity-focused organizations host similar events to honor the late reverend, but some may see an organization like this hosting a celebration and feel confused. Reece said this confusion is unwarranted.

“For me, inclusivity is non-negotiable,” she said. “Unfortunately, we know that things such as tobacco use take a greater toll on the African-American community than it may take on others.”

She said this uneven distribution of consequences of drug and alcohol is what fuels their desire to host a celebration for the civil rights leader.

“We live in times in which some minority populations feel as though they may be persecuted because of the color of their skin, and though great strides have been made since the time of Martin Luther King Jr., progress can always be made,” Reece said. “Drug addiction has no race, color, income level, gender. It does not discriminate.”

The coalition hosts numerous events over the course of last year. Early December they hosted a get-together lunch with children and their grandparents at the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Center.

“We host events at least monthly if not more often, yet this one always holds a special place in my heart,” Reece said. “Watching last year as people from different backgrounds in our community came together to celebrate diversity was both touching and encouraging.”

The celebration will start Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the Parks and Rec Center at 300 W. Mill St., starting at 3 p.m. The Elizabethton/Carter County Library will provide children’s activities, crafts and books for children to take home afterward.

Reece said she hopes events like this will help bring the community together towards the common goal of reducing the harmful effects of substance abuse.

“Anytime I can bridge gaps in communication with people, I will strive to do so,” she said. “It is my hope that this event encourages members of our community to celebrate diversity, not just on one day a year, but throughout their lives.”

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