January 16, 2013 11:39:59 AM
Jan Swoope - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rev. Tony Montgomery of Columbus checks his watch a lot these days. He has numerous places to be and tasks to check off, as do Learnard Dickerson and Lavonne Harris, who complete the trio of lead organizers of Dream 365.
The five-day observance honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. kicks off tonight in Columbus with the inaugural Golden Triangle Area Spelling Bee and concludes Jan. 21 with a commemorative breakfast at Trotter Convention Center. The days between encompass a variety of educational, service and cultural activities, several of them new to Dream 365. Some events are free; others require tickets.
Since its founding in 2005 by Dickerson, Montgomery and Harris, the celebration has grown into one of the preeminent events in Mississippi during the national observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"Every year we try to do something innovative," said Montgomery Tuesday. "We're excited about all the new partnerships and pieces that have come together this year."
One new collaboration is with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., hosts of the spelling bee for sixth- through eighth-graders in Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay and surrounding counties. Dream 365 maintains a strong focus on youth and education, annually sponsoring essay and creative art contests and awarding scholarships.
Montgomery said, "Anything educational, we're for. We really want to promote learning and growing."
On Thursday at 6 p.m., organizers partner with the Columbus Arts Council to screen the 1997 Academy Award-nominated Spike Lee documentary about the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The film at 6 p.m. at the Rosenzweig Arts Center is free to the public; seating is limited.
Montgomery also praised an affiliation with the "Wake Up" Project to present a youth event billed as "From Grassroots to Steel Boots" Friday evening at Trotter Convention Center. The program features Jackson State University's "MADDRAMA Troupe" and music by Likwuid and the Gummy Bears and Champagne Band of Harlem, N.Y.
As a remembrance and tribute to the journey of the civil rights movement, Dream 365 and 100 Black Men of Columbus team to host a symbolic march Sunday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King's march on Washington, D.C., where he delivered the "I Have a Dream Speech."
"We'll begin at the Riverwalk at 3 p.m. and walk to Trotter Convention Center, where we'll have music from a community choir and a speech from Joseph Byrd," Montgomery said. Community members are invited to participate.
The march on Washington was about jobs and freedom, said Montgomery. For Sunday's event, Dream 365 asked Columbus' school students to design signs reflecting their current concerns, such as putting an end to bullying and world hunger.
In keeping with the tradition of bringing in national figures for its signature closing event, Dream 365 presents Harry E. Johnson as keynote speaker at a commemorative breakfast Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. at Trotter Convention Center.
Johnson is president and CEO of the MLK National Memorial Project Foundation in Washington, D.C. Student and community award recipients will also be honored at the breakfast co-sponsored by the NAACP. Tickets are $15.
Other Dream 365 events include Saturday's Day of Service, in partnership with the United Way Community Volunteer Center. Teams will be dispersed to work on various service projects that improve the city or benefit nonprofit agencies.
A night of adult comedy with the Tyler Craig and Friends All-Star Comedy Show features Tyler Perry's "For Better For Worst" female comedian Cocoa Brown and Bo P. Saturday at Trotter Convention Center. An evening of jazz and spoken word highlights Friday's schedule.
"The beautiful thing about Dream 365 is that it reaches all audiences," said Learnard Dickerson. "We try to have something for everybody. And we couldn't do this without help from so many people. We have a great network of volunteers, and when I say great, I mean great."
View a detailed schedule of Dream 365 events on the web at dream365.info.
For more information, contact Dickerson at 662-425-1234 or Montgomery at 662-352-6347.
Dream 365 schedule
Tonight: Golden Triangle Area Spelling Bee, 6 p.m., Rosenzweig Arts Center. Free (662-425-9334).
Thursday: Spike Lee documentary, 6 p.m., Rosenzweig Arts Center. Free; limited seating (662-328-2787).
Friday: Youth Night: Grassroots to Steel Boots, 7-9 p.m., Trotter Convention Center. $10 (662-328-2787).
Friday: Jazz & Spoken Word (21 and older), 7 p.m., Rosenzweig Arts Center. $10; limited seating (662-328-2787 for tickets).
Saturday: MLK Day of Service with United Way Volunteer Center, 8 a.m. Meet at Trotter Convention Center lower level (662-328-0943 to volunteer).
Saturday: Tyler Craig & Friends Adult Comedy Show (21 and older), 8-10:30 p.m. , Trotter Convention Center upper level. $10 general admission; $25 VIP seating (662-328-2787 for tickets). Free Comedy Show After Party, 10:30 p.m.-1 a.m. on Trotter's Lower Level.
Sunday: Commemorative march, 3-4:30 p.m., from Columbus Riverwalk to Lowndes County Courthouse. Free (662-425-1234).
Monday: Commemorative breakfast, 8:30 -10 a.m. , Trotter Convention Center upper Level. $15 (662-328-2787 for tickets).
* Ticket locations are the Columbus Arts Council's Rosenzweig Arts Center, 501 Main St., and Von's Exotic Hair Salon, 1401 Gardner Blvd. See event details at dream365.info.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.