Organizers cancel McAlester MLK events

NEWS-CAPITAL | File photoThe Dr. Martin Luther King Unity Choir presents a song during the 2019 Commemorative Ceremony at Mount Triumph Baptist Church in McAlester. This year's 2020 Commemorative Ceremony at Mount Triumph and the MLK Unity Banquet traditionally held at McAlester High School have both been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Both this year's Dr. Martin Luther King Commemorative Ceremony and the following evening's MLK Unity Banquet in McAlester have been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

"With COVID, there's no viable way we could pull that off without the people in the community coming together," said the Rev. Anthony Washington, citing concerns about bringing people together in close proximity to each other for the events.

Washington is pastor at Mount Triumph Baptist Church, which hosts the Commemorative MLK Ceremony, and is also involved with the MLK Unity Banquet. Both events would normally have been held this weekend.

Plans were to dedicate this year's ceremony to the memory of two longtime members of the Pittsburg County Holiday Commission, which organizes both of the McAlester events.

"We were going to dedicate this program to Reginald Turner and Leo Thompson," Washington said.

The Martin Luther King commemorative ceremony and MLK Unity Banquet both were postponed once before, from January until March, due to an ice storm. Washington said there are no plans to reschedule this year's events.

"We're not going to try and do anything," Washington said.

He said organizers wanted to wait at least until most people have had an opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccination before making any further plans regarding the year's MLK ceremonies in McAlester.

"The COVID-19 vaccines got a slow start," Washington noted. "I don't see any way we can do it."

Normally, the Commemorative Ceremony is held on the Friday preceding Dr. Martin Luther King Day, which this year is observed Monday, Jan 18. The Unity Banquet is traditionally held at McAlester High School on the Saturday night prior to MLK Day.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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