Nearly 50 years after the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, local organizations are offering opportunities to commemorate the life of the man who led the country toward racial equality.

While Martin Luther King Jr. Day is officially Monday, celebrations of the nation’s civil rights leader will begin in Columbus on Friday with a meeting of the Sunrise Rotary Club.

The meeting will feature Sunrise Rotary member Jarvis Cooper, who heard King speak at a rally just days before his death.

Cooper, who was 12 at the time, was enthralled by King’s passion and leadership but later crushed by his assassination in 1968.

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Since then, Cooper said he has tried to channel the same passion he observed in King into his own efforts toward creating a more equal society. He plans to use his experiences to encourage Rotary members and visitors to use their talents to improve the world.

“I think (King) would tell us to realize that we have the same components that he had, and he would want us to make a difference with those gifts,” Cooper said.

The Sunrise Rotary Club meeting begins at 6:45 a.m. Friday at the Donner Center. Rotary members have opened the meeting to the public to allow visitors to hear Cooper’s presentation.

The Columbus African American Ministerial Alliance will kick off Monday’s celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. Day with the annual holiday breakfast at Columbus North High School.

This year’s breakfast will feature David Bosley, pastor of Dayspring Church in Columbus, as the speaker.

Bosley’s presentation will address ways to perfect race relations and improve Columbus’ reputation for being a welcoming community, two themes the alliance focused on heavily in 2015.

The breakfast will also feature a performance by the Columbus Children’s Choir and mime Jerome Wood, an Indiana University student who gives a yearly performance in Columbus about the Civil Rights movement.

“It’s a pretty impactful presentation,” Bosley said.

The alliance will also use the holiday to recognize local residents for their contributions to making Columbus a welcoming place to live.

Students will be honored for their participation in the annual essay, art and poetry contest, which features written or visual art related to King’s life.

New this year is the Dr. Martin Luther King Beloved Community Award, which will be given to one resident who has made an enduring impact on promoting equal rights in Columbus, Bosley said.

The breakfast begins at 7:15 a.m.

The alliance also is encouraging Columbus youngsters to attend a community celebration at Calvary Community Church, which will include lunch and youth-oriented activities from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The performances will then continue Monday afternoon when the Columbus Area Arts Council hosts a production by North Carolina-based theater company, Bright Star.

The Bright Star actors will perform “Let it Shine: The American Civil Rights Movement,” a production that chronicles the major events of the 1960s, including The Freedom Riders, Montgomery bus boycott and the March on Washington.

The show is designed for adults and children who are in at least third grade. The council has been working with local educators to incorporate the show into classroom discussions about civil rights, said Tami Sharp, program director. A special worksheet was created to allow students to reflect on the show when they return to school.

The Bright Star performance is free and begins at 2 p.m. in The Commons. All Martin Luther King Jr. Day events are open to the public.

If you go

Sunrise Rotary Club meeting

  • When: Friday, registration at 6:45 a.m., meeting at 7 a.m.
  • Where: Donner Center, 739 22nd St., Columbus
  • Who: Jarvis Cooper speaking
  • Cost: $7 for breakfast

African American Ministerial Alliance community breakfast

  • When: Monday, 7:15 to 9 a.m.
  • Where: Columbus North High School cafeteria, 1400 25th St., Columbus
  • Who: The Rev. David Bosley speaking, performances by Columbus Children’s Choir, mime Jerome Wood
  • Cost: Free

Calvary Community Church youth celebration

  • When: Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Where: Calvary Community Church, 1031 Chestnut St., Columbus
  • Who: Youth ages 7 to 17
  • Cost: Free

Bright Star performance of “Let it Shine: The American Civil Rights Movement”

  • When: Monday, 2 p.m.
  • Where: The Commons, Nugent-Custer Performance Hall, 300 Washington St., Columbus
  • Who: Appropriate for third graders through adults
  • Cost: Free
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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.