The YWCA of Greater Charleston announced Friday its 40th annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, which kicks off Jan. 8 with Sunday worship services at area churches and synagogues.

The celebration continues Jan. 15 with a 4 p.m. Tri-County Ecumenical Service at Morris Street Baptist Church downtown. The keynote speaker is U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C.

The following day, the official holiday, features an 11 a.m. parade that starts at Burke High School and proceeds along King Street to Marion Square. The parade marshal is Raymond Greenberg, president of the Medical University of South Carolina. The parade will be followed by a Youth Speak Out at the YWCA, 106 Coming St.

Washington Post columnist and Orangeburg native Eugene Robinson will be the keynote speaker Jan. 17 for the annual MLK Business and Professional Breakfast.

At a news conference Friday, Mayor Joe Riley paid tribute to former YWCA director Christine Jackson, who was present, crediting her with kick-starting the King celebration and breakfast.

Riley said King's message of freedom and justice needs to be put into practice, and the holiday events are a good way to inspire people.

"We want to make sure we touch everyone," he said.

YWCA director Kathleen Rogers thanked The Citadel and MUSC for funding a new trophy case that holds the first edition and second edition Harvey Gantt Triumph Award. The cups were endowed by civic leader Edward Pendarvis, Bank of South Carolina president Hugh Lane and architect Ray Huff.

Clay Middleton, a former aide to Clyburn who in May was appointed acting director for the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Corporation for National and Community Service, is chairman of the Gantt award committee. The 2012 recipient will be named later this year.

Maria Cordova, president of the YWCA's board of directors, noted that King's concerns -- racism, injustice, poverty -- remain vital issues today, and that poverty is on the rise.

"We all have a challenge," Cordova said. "We all need to keep the dream of Martin Luther King alive."