MLK award ceremony: Three Black women stand together on a stage behind a podium. On the left, the woman wears a police uniform. In the center, the woman wears a long coat and holds a trophy and bouquet of flowers. The woman on the right wears a blue dress.
This year's winner of the “Living the Dream” award, Frances “Missy” Cook (center) stands next to last year’s award winner Chief Deputy Rhonda Johnson (left) and Cobb NAACP president Jeriene Bonner-Willis (right) on Jan. 15. (Abisola Dahunsi/Fresh Take Georgia)

Love, peace, and justice.  

This was the theme for Cobb County’s 36th annual celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024.  

Cobb’s branch of the NAACP and the Cobb County government joined forces to host the event for the beloved American civil rights leader while presenting its annual “Living the Dream” award.  

Hundreds gathered at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre to witness the celebration hosted by Channel 2 Action News anchor, Fred Blankenship.  

Cobb’s NAACP President, Jeriene Bonner-Willis, took to the stage to present this year’s award to Cobb County government worker Frances “Missy” Cook.  

“This is just an honor,” Cook said, accepting the award. “This means everything to me.”   

The “Living the Dream” award is given to community members who demonstrate leadership and commitment to making Cobb County more diverse and inclusive.   

The celebration, which was free and open to the public, featured entertainment including musical performances, live readings, and singing, all serving as a powerful homage to the ideals King exemplified. Performances from ETD Dance Studio, Unique Nelson, Cory Bailey, Highest Praise Orchestra Duet, and others entertained the audience.  

“This is a moving and joyful celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King, and all in Cobb County who carry his dream,” said Louisa Fields, an attendee of the event. Fields is a Cobb County native and seventh-year attendee of the annual celebration.  

Singing and dancing were just some of the ways community members chose to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy. Austin Julio Broughton proved to be the event’s most anticipated performer with his moving rendition of King’s famous 1968 speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top,” which received thunderous applause and a standing ovation from audience members.  

Dr. King, who would have turned 95 this year, delivered this speech in support of the striking sanitation workers at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated.  

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life,” Broughton recited King’s well-known words. “Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” 

Through this year’s theme of love, peace, and justice, with a special emphasis on connecting with the community’s youth, the Rev. King’s sentiments on equality for all Americans was echoed in this year’s celebration of his life and legacy.  

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