Since moving to Fort Mill a few years ago, Lisa Faircloth has been openly critical of the town’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.
Not this year.
Faircloth, who became part of the solution and volunteered to serve on the committee organizing the event, is excited about Fort Mill’s official observance, called “A Day of Service.”
The committee came up with a program that not only honors the memory of King with speeches and music – previously the meat and potatoes of the town’s observance – but with a demonstration of the late civil rights leader’s call to citizens to work to collectively to help make the world a better place.
“A Day of Service” begins 10 a.m. Monday with a gathering at the Fort Mill Church of God on Academy Street and include a keynote address by Fort Mill resident Sammie Potts. It will conclude with a reception at the Fort Mill History Museum, where exhibits on prominent local African-Americans will be featured. In between, attendees can participate by lending a hand in several service projects: a cleanup of the George Fish Memorial in the Paradise community; helping with the Adopt-A-Stream program; or by bringing nonperishables to donate to the Church of God food bank and personal care items for the Fort Mill Care Center.
“I like it because that’s part of Dr. King’s vision of all people working together for the common good in our cities, our states and our local communities,” said Faircloth, who is also the organizing chairwoman for the nascent Fort Mill chapter of the NAACP.
“We should make it a day on, not a day off,” she said about the national holiday celebrated on the third Monday of January.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and died April 4, 1968, after being shot by an assassin after delivering a speech in Memphis, Tenn.
Typically, a brief program consisting of a speech and a song or two from a local choir is held in front of Town Hall. That was something Faircloth was certain she wanted to change.
“That was a big concern, it being outside,” she said. “I said, ‘Out of respect for Dr. King, is it possible to have it indoors?’ This allows more people to participate and numbers may increase. Children might want to come, grandparents might want to come and this makes it more inclusive.”
Faircloth credits her fellow committee members, Town of Fort Mill Events and Media Coordinator Kimberly Starnes in particular, for being open to change. And it was Starnes, she said, who came up with the idea of incorporating service into the program.
“I’m elated Kimberly has the vision to make this a great community event and was receptive to new ideas and that Fort Mill has someone in her who can focus her energy and creativity on this great event,” Faircloth said.
Starnes said residents can expect the annual MLK Day event to evolve.
“The change in the MLK event was prompted by several factors, including the Fort Mill History Museum’s desire to hold a reception after the town’s event, the town’s dedication to continuously expand our events and the committee’s enthusiasm and ideas about how the event could be built upon,” she said. “It would be wonderful to see this event continue to grow.”
Capping the celebration will be the museum reception and exhibits.
“We thought this is a nice affair and it would be nice to top it off with a social event with refreshments and to be able to highlight some of the local African-Americans who have contributed to the history of Fort Mill,” said Ann Evans, the museum’s executive director.
The museum will turn the spotlight on the lives of four late residents: Lucy Phifer, a local midwife and care giver; John Sanders, a local historian and community leader; Solomon Spratt, a former plantation overseer and successful farmer; and Elliott Littleton Avery, principal and educator at the George Fish School, which was available to African-American students in Fort Mill during segregation.
Admission to the museum will be $5 or free with a canned good to donate.
Also on Monday, the United Churches of Fort Mill will celebrate King with a program at 7 p.m. at Jerusalem Baptist Church, 300 Steele St., in Fort Mill. Everyone is welcome.