C-J Extra: Living the Dream celebrates MLK’s legacy in Topeka

Organization plans week of activities

John Nave and Monica Augusto, board members of Living the Dream Inc., are gearing up for several activities and program this week that will celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Keith Horinek/The Capital-Journal)

The 33rd annual Living the Dream encompasses a week of activities to celebrate the life of pastor and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and carry on his vision of the world living in unity.

 

The event was held the first 10 years at Cedar Crest, the governor’s mansion and, because it had grown in capacity, was relocated to Ramada Topeka Downtown Hotel and Convention Center.

The event also grew from three days to 10 days, with many activities scheduled Jan. 10-15 in the community, said Monica Augusto, co-chairman, board member, treasurer and assistant event coordinator of Living the Dream Inc. The event kicked off this year on Jan. 7.

The highlight of the week-long event is the awards and Scholarship Banquet at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Ramada Topeka Downtown Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th Ave. Other activities include Stop the Violence programs, day of service, march at the Capitol, soup dinner and Martin Luther King Jr. Day program.

“Things like this are a reminder of what we have to carry on throughout the year, not just in January, in February and in July,” said John Nave, publicity and Unity in the Community chairman, fundraising and overall coordinator, and board member of Living the Dream Inc. “I could never see Topeka without it.”

Q: How did Living the Dream begin?

Augusto: Mr. and Mrs. Bugg (Robert and Jacqueline) were on their way to Kansas City, and Mr. Bugg says he wanted to do something to honor Dr. King. He started talking to people in the community, and they said let’s have a reception honoring people by giving out community awards and scholarships. That’s how it began, and from there it’s spread.

Nave: They wanted to recognize a few people who believed in Dr. King’s ideology and his beliefs.

Q: How has it evolved?

Augusto: They went from three days to now 10 days. We include everybody, from the youth all the way to the seniors. We do Stop the Violence (and) Unity in the Community, where we bring different religions (and) different nationalities together to start off the week. They do the poetry, art and essay contest awards and scholarships. … The goal is to give 10 scholarships worth $1,000 each.

Q: How many people are involved in the event?

Augusto: There are two boards — Living the Dream Inc. board, with 13 members, and Living the Dream Business Partners, with 40 members. (They’re) comprised of community members and businesses and organizations. People are assigned to chair daily events.

Q: What types of activities are planned?

Augusto: We actually started … (on Jan. 7) with Unity in the Community and go until the actual (Martin Luther King) holiday (Jan. 15).

Wednesday, Jan. 10, the art and essay and poetry winners are awarded. Throughout the week, senior baskets are taken to the senior citizens centers, and individuals go to the preschools and read to kids about Dr. King. On Wednesday, we also will have Dale “Mad Dog” Messmer, a former U.S. Marine, speaking to middle school and high school students at Washburn (University) to talk to them about life. There are 800 to 1,000 kids expected to attend.

Thursday, Jan. 11, is the Governor’s March and the annual drum line concert at Highland Park (High School). We have five schools coming in. It’s not a competition. They just showcase their talent. Admission is $2 or two cans of food to be given to local food pantries. The money goes toward the scholarships awarded. We’ve raised $500 up to $1,000 in scholarship money.

Friday, Jan. 12, is the Leadership Recognition Dinner at 11:30 a.m. at the (downtown) Ramada with guest speaker Brett Ballard, Washburn University’s men’s basketball coach.

Saturday, Jan. 13, is our big event with the scholarship and community awards banquet. Guest speaker will be Bernard LaFayette Jr. On Sunday, Jan. 14, is Fellowship Day at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15, is Harvesters Day of Service from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (at 215 S.E. Quincy St.) and the Whose Dream Is It? Community Soup Dinner at 6 p.m., with the program at 7 p.m.

Nave: A play titled “King and Cronkite,” featuring actors portraying (TV news broadcaster) Walter Cronkite and Dr. King in a two-man setting, about 20 minutes long, will be performed at the banquet Saturday. This play is like I’ve never seen before. It’s amazing.

Q: Who are some of the individuals being honored and the guest speaker at the Living the Dream Banquet?

Augusto: This year, we’re giving 12 community awards. … Pauline Johnson will receive the Larry D. Johnson Sr. Humanitarian Award, and Lola Belle Smith will receive the Centenarian Award. We are also honoring Larry Johnson and Lonnie Williams. Advisor Excel Leadership Team will receive the Lonnie J. Williams Executive Leadership Award. There will also be a youth award and community action awards. Tickets for the banquet are $30.

Q: How many years have you been involved with the organization?

Augusto: I’ve been with the group for 20 years.

Nave: I’ve been with the organization since it began.

Q: What does the event mean to you personally?

Augusto: To me, I like to see people come together and fulfill Dr. King’s dream. It’s good to see people come together of different races, nationalities (and) religions, and they all come together and help us make this week a success. That’s what I like about it. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, you’re fulfilling his dream.

Q: Does your family participate?

Augusto: Oh yeah, but not by choice. My daughters help at the banquet. They do the check-in. One of my daughter’s is on the board. My dad was on the board, but he stepped down.

Nave: I’ve already told my sons, my daughters and their husbands about the banquet.

 

Contact features writer Jessica Cole at (785) 295-5628.

 

LIVING THE DREAM SCHEDULE

Jan. 10

— Stop the Violence Day program, 9:30 a.m., Lee Arena at Washburn University, 1700 S.W. College.

Jan. 11

— Drumming For the Drum Major, 7 p.m., Highland Park High School, 2424 S.E. California Ave.

— Governor’s Annual March and program, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., meet on south steps of the Capitol and walk to first floor of the Rotunda.

Jan. 12

— Leadership Recognition Luncheon, 11:30 a.m., Ramada Topeka Downtown Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th Ave.

— Stop the Violence Day presentation, 1 p.m., Capital City High School, 500 S.W. Tuffy Kellogg Drive.

— Topeka Juvenile Correctional Complex Outreach, 2:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., 1430 N.W. 25th St.

Jan. 13

— Awards and Scholarship Banquet, 6 p.m., Ramada Topeka Downtown Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th Ave.

Jan. 14

— Fellowship Day, 6 p.m., Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 1100 S.E. Washington St.

Jan. 15

— Dr. King Holiday Program, 10 a.m., Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, 1515 S.E. Monroe St.

— Whose Dream Is It? Community Soup Dinner, dinner at 6:30 p.m., program at 7:30 p.m., First Christian Church, 1880 S.W. Gage Blvd.

— Harvesters Day of Service, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 215 S.E. Quincy St.

Information: Visit ltdtopeka.com or facebook.com/ltdtopeka/ or call Monica Augusto at (785) 274-6060 or John Nave at (785) 207-7837.

 

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