The thrill of a day off from school is enough to excite any student, but West Ashley High School seniors say it's important not to forget the true significance of Martin Luther King Jr. and the upcoming holiday named in his honor.
For Danielle Edwards, 17, being far removed from the King era means she usually reflects on his life and philosophy on set occasions, but that's something she said should change.
"I don't think that we (teens) focus on him as much just because we haven't lived it (the struggle for civil rights), but I feel like it should be stressed some more," Danielle said. "... We celebrate it (MLK Day) once a year, but it should be throughout the year, especially with politics and things that are going on within our country now."
When Cody Harris, 18, thinks of King, he said he is inspired by the activist's courage to stand for a cause despite the dangers that ultimately cost him his life.
"Everybody would approach it (King's memory) racially first, but I think all racial things aside, the fact that he could pursue something that was not just for him but was way bigger than he was -- I just admire that he was that bold to do something for everyone, and not selfish for himself," Cody said.
In addition to King's courage, Cody said he also admires the civil rights leader's ability as a speech writer, citing his "I Have a Dream" address in particular.
"I have a bunch of essays that I've done on him before. Just the way he puts together his speeches -- I admire his intelligence," Cody said.
Like Cody, Danielle also finds inspiration in King's courage.
"Personally, I believe Dr. Martin Luther King represents a quality among not only Americans but individuals around the world. ... He inspires me because of his determination and courage to end racial discrimination," Danielle said.
Hali Selert, 18, said recognition of King is something that varies from teen to teen.
"For some people, I feel like they reflect on him throughout the year and throughout important times in their life, but other people kind of take it for granted and only think, 'Oh, good we have school off because it's Martin Luther King Day,' " Hali said.
Hali said she regrets that in her experience King has gotten less recognition the older she gets.
"In elementary school, reading textbooks we used to hear a lot about him, but now in high school, I can't tell you the last time we really talked about it," Hali said. "It's sad because he deserves a ton of credit, and so do all the other civil rights activists we've kind of forgotten."
Unity and Peace Rally: At 5 p.m., the rally will kick off in the Cistern Yard at the College of Charleston followed by a candlelit vigil march to the Avery Research Center. Afterward, there will be a dialogue between Camille Akeju, director, Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum, and Michael Allen, community partnership specialist, Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, at 6 p.m. at the Center, 125 Bull St.
Musical concert: 'His Light Still Shines: A Musical Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.' will take place at 7 p.m. at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, 4761 Luella Ave., North Charleston. Free tickets are required for entry and are available in person at the North Charleston Cultural Arts Department at City Hall or Royal Missionary Baptist Church. Limit: 4 tickets per request.
Gathering: The 3rd annual From Boyz to Gentlemen: Raising Successful Sons in the 21st Century will be 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in the West Ashley High School Auditorium, 4060 W. Wildcat Blvd. Free.
Tri-County Ecumenical Service: The service starts at 4 p.m. at Morris Street Baptist Church, 25 Morris St. Keynote Speaker: U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn. The Harvey Gantt Triumph Award will be presented posthumously to the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy. Former congressman Patrick Kennedy will accept the award for his father.
MLK Holiday Parade: Starts at 11 a.m. at Burke High School, 244 President St. in Charleston. Parade route: East on Fishburne, north on Ashley, east on Sumter, south on King, east on Calhoun streets.
College of Charleston: Students, faculty and staff will participate in the MLK Day of Service. Participants will meet in Cougar Mall at 8 a.m. Registration required. Contact John Bello-Ogunu at OID@cofc.edu or visit cofc.edu/mlkday.
MLK Day Build: Sea Island Habitat marks its 9th annual Martin Luther King Day Build, when 50 volunteers and staff members will join together to frame a three-bedroom house on James Island. Call 768-0998.
Youths Speak Out: Youths gather at the YWCA for a discussion about King and civil rights at 12:30 p.m.; 106 Coming St.
Professional Breakfast: The MLK Business & Professional Breakfast will be at 7:30 a.m. in the Exhibition Hall at the Gaillard Auditorium. Keynote Speaker: Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. Tickets $30. 722-1644.
College of Charleston: Civil rights activist Bob Zellner will present 'The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement' at 7 p.m. in the Stern Center Ballroom. Zellner will tell the story of his journey from son and grandson of Klansmen to field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Free.
Saturday, Jan. 21
Call to Action: A free Gospel Concert Raising Awareness and Action starts at 5 p.m. at Royal Baptist Church, 4761 Luella Ave.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.