Organizers of this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day events say the celebration will be a special one. They believe that King's dream of racial equality is coming to pass.
"Remember the statement that he made, that one day a person will not be judged by his color but by his content and his character?" asked Brenda Mobley, organizer of Sunday's ecumenical church service. "This is what I see coming to pass now — a well qualified man to try to lead the country. It's fulfilling the dream that Martin Luther King spoke of."
Mary Isabel Harris, who is organizing Monday's King Day celebration at Kennedy Park in Brooksville, also noted the significance of Barack Obama's election and upcoming inauguration as president of the United States.
"We have a black president. We see our kids playing together, black and white," Harris said. "Those are the things he talked about. Some of those things are unfolding."
The theme for the church service, "Finding That Stone of Hope in a Mountain of Despair," is a paraphrase of a line from King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered in Washington, D.C., in 1963.
"With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope," King said while standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
"To me the stone is like a person," Mobley said about the theme. "I saw a little boy on TV the other night saying, 'Now I believe I can be what I want to be in life.' You hear it and you talk about it, but now it's become a reality."
Representatives from several local churches are taking part in the church service.
New Hope Missionary Baptist Church will host the event, with the Rev. Freddie Hinson calling the congregation to worship and Daisy Swackard giving a welcome.
There will be performances by the A Cut Above Dance Worship Team from Grace World Outreach Church and by Marilyn Knight from First Baptist Church of Shady Rest, who will sing The Impossible Dream.
Musical selections will be presented by the Antioch Fellowship Baptist Church choir and the Greater Love Voices of Joy from Greater Love Outreach Church.
An offering will be taken by Arthur Gittens of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. The Rev. Clarence Clark, pastor of Shiloh New Beginnings Pillar of Truth Ministries, will give the offertory prayer.
The Rev. John D. Williams, pastor of Allen Temple AME Church, will lead a responsive reading. His son, John D. Williams Jr., will perform a rap number, and church member John Waddy will talk about the occasion for the celebration.
The Rev. David Garcia, pastor of Grace World Outreach, will read scripture.
Three of the participants are from outside the county. The keynote speaker will be the Rev. Bobby Patton from New Life Church in Tampa. The Rev. David Swackard, a pastor from Clearwater, will give the invocation, and Irvin Homer, from St. Ann's Episcopal Church in Crystal River, will assist with the offering.
County Administrator David Hamilton will offer greetings from the county, and Commissioner Rose Rocco, the Rev. Gladys Brown and Suzanne Touchton will present certificates to Hernando County NAACP's Centennial Unsung Heroes — black people who have made significant contributions to the community.
Wayman Boggs, president of the Hernando County branch of the NAACP, will make the closing remarks before the congregation sings We Shall Overcome.
A reception with punch and cookies will follow for those attending to have an opportunity to meet and congratulate the unsung heroes.
Mobley said she is happy to head the religious event.
"I'm really glad to focus on the religious aspect of it," she said. "So many people focus on the march and all that, but the religious part has a very important significance. Dr. King was a pastor. He could tell them that you've got to be anchored in God to be a nonviolent person."
Monday's event at Kennedy Park has its own theme: "The Dream Unfolds."
"Hattie Redding will be speaking on just how the dream is unfolding," Harris said.
The keynote speaker will be Lorenzo Hamilton. The Rev. Irene Wells will be the master of ceremonies.
There will be musical entertainment throughout the day, including a gospel sing starting at 1:30 p.m. featuring Brothers 2 Brothers from Orlando.
There is no cost for the event, which is open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.
Harris hopes people will become more informed at the two events and enjoy themselves.
"This is about a man who lived and died for equal rights for all people — not only for black people, not only for white, but for everybody. That was his fight and that was his dream," she said. "We want to honor a man who did so much. We know there were others, but we want to honor this man who did so much for all people."
Mobley said that while many people are focused on obtaining justice, she hopes the church service will turn people's attention to a different direction.
"I hope the service will make an impact on the community to relive a dream," she said, "and that when they leave the service they will be inspired enough to want to go out and make a change within themselves to help change the community. You can't talk it and not live it. When you live it, other people can see it."