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Community invited to celebrate life of Martin Luther King Jr.

January 9, 2013

ROCHESTER — The leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and his message of nonviolence and equality has inspired men and women of all ages around the world.

Locally, Rochester Community Schools and the Rochester Area Ministerial Association are hosting the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 620 Romeo Road in Rochester Hills.

RCS Community Relations Manager Debbi Hartman said the school district started hosting the event about 10-15 years ago.

“The district started it, originally, just because we thought there was a need for some sort of community celebration to honor the work of Dr. King,” she said. “We’ve done different things over the years, but … the whole idea was to involve the schools and the community in some kind of recognition for Dr. King.”

Around three years ago, the Rochester Area Ministerial Association approached the district to get involved, and the two groups combined efforts and started holding the event at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.

“The event got a little more broadly spread community involvement. We had choirs from a couple of the churches join us, and it took on a little more reverential tone. I think it really improved the ceremony, so we’ve really enjoyed partnering with the ministerial association over these past three years now,” Hartman added.

Rev. Leonetta Bugleisi said in an email that the community celebrates the foundations of all social justice actions by celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“For children, the message brings into focus living peacefully by acceptance of all children and a zero-tolerance of bullying behavior. For adults, the message focuses on the universal needs of all people and sharing of resources,” she said.

The theme for this year’s event is “A Dream in Action.”

“Our service will reflect diversity through music, essay, soloist performances, storytelling, prayer and joy,” Bugleisi said in an email. She said  the “intergenerational community” is invited to continue in the tradition of a celebration that calls on people to improve their neighborhoods by putting the dream in action.

The celebration will kick off with a prelude, followed by a weaving of hymns from three choirs — University Hills Elementary and North Hill Elementary, along with adult choirs from various churches — and a multimedia presentation to highlight essays of local students.

Rev. Dr. Charles S.G. Boayue Jr. of Second Grace United Methodist Church in Detroit will give the keynote address. A native of Liberia, Boayue has called the United States home since 1983. He earned degrees from Bethune-Cookman University, Florida Southern College, Duke University and United Theological Seminary.

“The Rev. Charles S.G. Boayue Jr. was chosen as the speaker because he is a man who has interpreted his own personal story into a message of hope and purpose from God. He uses a very creative approach to present his message through storytelling. Storytelling is appealing, as important messages are revealed through characters in action and with purpose. This is what our Martin Luther King Day service hopes to invite people to do: to live their lives filled with action and purpose, based on Martin Luther King’s example of peace and justice,” Bugleisi added.

At the end of the ceremony, there will be a drawing for a peace pole — a pole that features the worlds “Let Peace Prevail on Earth” in eight languages, which the district has donated every year.

Last year, approximately 400 people attended the celebration, which Hartman said has significantly grown throughout the years.

“I think it’s one of the only celebrations in our area, and we’re proud to do it,” she said. “We’re really pleased to be able to continue this tradition with the help of the ministerial association, and we look forward to seeing everybody from the community out.”

For more information about the program, contact Rev. Leonetta Bugleisi at or Debbi Hartman at

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