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‘No Shots Fired’ campaign adds new twist to annual King celebration

By Hal Lamar | 1/17/2014, 6 a.m.
King Center CEO Elder Bernice King.

Since an observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commenced as a state-by-state event some 45 years ago and became a national holiday in January of 1986, its undergirding has always centered around nonviolence. But this year and with no small push by King Center CEO Elder Bernice King, who was five years old when everything began in 1969, a twist has been added and aimed principally at youth.

“We are asking that there be no shots fired (January 20th),” King said at a January 9 news conference to kick off the 11 days of events.

King said “No Shots Fired” evolves around a lot more than pistols and other weapons.

“No shooting off at the mouth with our tongues (through) negative and demeaning words, pushing, shoving, hitting and certainly no shooting off of any kind of gun,” King said. “My greatest expectation is that this day will raise the bar and perhaps create the tipping point we need for people to start thinking before they speak and/or act.”

The campaign is co-sponsored by the Atlanta Hawks whose players and staff will urge teens to choose non-violence as a way of life and encourage their colleagues through posting a no shots fired logo on e-mail, Instagram, Twitter and other social media programs. Eligible submissions will be given tickets to attend the Hawks-Miami Heat game on January 20 at 5:30 p.m. at Philips Arena.

A highlight of this year’s celebration will be the annual Salute to Greatness awards dinner, the King Center’s primary fundraising initiative. The plethora of honorees at the January 18 event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown includes former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali receiving one of two Salute to Greatness awards, the center’s highest honor along with the Xerox Corporation, who the center says is recognized for “setting the private sectors highest standards of diversity, global citizenship, environmental sustainability and generous support of great causes across the nation and the world.”

This year’s ANGEL awards named for King Center founder Mrs. Coretta Scott King are Tony-award winning playwright, performer and activist Eve Ensler and Pakistani activist Khalida Brohl.

January 20, the third Monday of January recognized as the national “holiday” of Dr. King’s birthday, is also the date of the annual commemorative Service held at Ebenezer Baptist Church. This year’s service held at Ebenezer’s Horizon Sanctuary will be keynoted by Senior Pastor Dr. Raphael Warnock.

As events for this year’s King Holiday observance were unfolded, just a few blocks to the northwest at the State Capitol, state Rep. Tyrone Brooks submitted House Bill 706 to place a statue of Dr. King on the capitol grounds, preferably on the Washington Street side where the monument of former legislator and avowed bigot Thomas Watson stood.

Bernice King said she was unaware of the move but nonetheless proud of it.

“I’m honored that this is taking place,” she said. “There is only one other statue of King in Atlanta in front of Morehouse College’s MLK Chapel.  State Sen. Emmanuel Jones says Brooks’ bill is similar to SB 171 he introduced last year which would provide statues inside and outside the capitol for King, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, Mrs. Coretta King, former SCLC President and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Joseph Lowery and other civil and human rights notables.