Alabaster celebrates in King’s memory
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
About 50 children, parents and community leaders spent the day on Jan. 16 celebrating at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center in Alabaster, rounding out a weekend honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Kids First Awareness 21st Century Community Learning Center, an after-school center off Simmsville Road for at-risk kids, hosted a basketball tournament pitting kids against their parents, teachers and pastors, a health fair and a talent show open to all in attendance.
The talent show and basketball tournament came two days after Kids First hosted a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial community prayer and free lunch at its campus off Simmsville Road.
Kids First Executive Director Cindy Hawkins said Alabaster Mayor David Frings, Jimmy Gould, members of the Alabaster First United Methodist Church, students from Parker and Calera High School and more than 200 others were at the event.
Several speakers at the community prayer and lunch were actively involved in Birmingham’s civil rights movement, including Carol Mckinstry, the author of the book “While the World Watched” who was 14 years old and was inside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham when it was bombed in 1963, killing four of her friends.
Other speakers included Gwen Gamble, who was sprayed with a high-pressure water hose, beaten and jailed when she was a young girl participating in the civil rights movement, and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute historian and Parker High School teacher Barry McNelly.
Hawkins said she plans to hold the events on the weekend before Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year to help bring Alabaster residents of all races together.
“This is just part of the dream. We are following in his footsteps,” Hawkins said of King, noting children at Kids First worked last year to name Alabaster’s Mt. Olive Road in King’s honor, which was the first street named in King’s honor in Shelby County.
“The MLK street sign will serve as a guide post and not a hitching post. It will remind us that more good things are yet to come in Alabaster when we work together,” Hawkins said.
Because school was out for the holiday on Jan. 16, kids and parents started pouring into the Instructional Services Center an hour before the talent show and basketball tournament began. Hawkins said many of the kids in attendance are regulars at Kids First.
Volunteers from the University of Montevallo also helped during the events, and participated alongside the kids.
The talent show featured several groups performing everything from a rap about King’s dream to a dance by the Kids First Praise Team.
“These kids don’t get a chance to play inside like this very often,” Hawkins said. “This is what it’s all about. They will never forget that they had a chance to come together and celebrate on Martin Luther King’s birthday.
“If I give them a place to play, they will give back to others, and the circle will go on,” Hawkins added.