HISTORY OF COMMITTEE
In January 1987, Mayor Kai Shang of Attleboro initiated the city’s first celebration of the King holiday. Along with Larry Fitton, Attleboro’s town crier, Mayor Shang planned a small ceremony to be held at the flagpole at Attleboro City Hall. Word of the coming event spread to several members of Greater Attleboro’s African American community. These individuals gathered their children and joined Mayor Shang and Larry Fitton at the flagpole.
When the ceremony was over, and as the group dispersed, several members of the families gathered, including Edna Cason, Gladys Durant, Esther Forbes, Rachel Garvin, and Gloria Wyatt, to name a few, and decided that the ceremony should occur annually and that a committee should be formed to plan the event.
From there, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Planning Committee was established, and in January 1988, the Committee held its first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. The celebration included a municipal program at Attleboro City Hall and an interfaith service at John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church, Attleboro, where many of the committee members attended worship services. The committee held the municipal program in honor of Mayor Kai Shang, who was the first official in Attleboro to respond to Governor Dukakis’ proclamation requesting that the cities and towns of Massachusetts recognize the King holiday. The committee held the interfaith service to get the local community involved. This format continues to be the blueprint for the committee’s annual celebration of the King holiday. Later, special programming was added to highlight different aspects of black history.
Not long after its inception, committee members decided to donate a portion of the offering collected at the interfaith service to a local charity and to establish a scholarship to assist minority high school seniors in obtaining an advanced degree or certificate of training.
In 2004, the committee changed its name to The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee of Greater Attleboro to better fit its mission and goals; the scholarship was also renamed the W. Duane Lockard Scholarship and gained a scholarship benefactor, Attorney Leslie Lockard, daughter of W. Duane Lockard, professor emeritus of Princeton University and a former member of the NAACP. The committee also reinstituted its academic contests, which promote the learning of African American history as American history and centers on the African American struggle for freedom and equal rights. The academic contests vary in form—from essay, to poetry, to poster art—and in subject matter to provide a variety of information and intellectual stimulation to the contestants. The contest is funded by Gary Lavoie of Footworks.
In 2008, the committee initiated the Computer for College program, where a laptop computer was awarded to an Attleboro High School senior with financial needs. The program is now entitled the Darren and Joseph Major Computer for College program and is funded by Leslie Lockard.
The committee continues donating the offering from the interfaith service to a different local charity each year, and in 2010, it chose Partners in Health, a global organization that works to bring health care to the poor. The committee also began additional fundraising through Art Mixers at Patterson Creations, Attleboro, that feature a local artist who guides the participants through a painting inspired by Dr. King’s dream and values.
Over the years, the committee has held programs and events addressing many different features of Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community, and it remains dedicated to persevering into the future.
© 2023 by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee of Greater Attleboro. We are a 501(c) 3 non-profit entity.