COLUMBIA — Recordings of Martin Luther King Jr. rang through the Holiday Inn Convention Center during the "Unity in Diversity!" performance Thursday morning at the 18th annual Columbia Values Diversity Celebration.
This year's event attracted 980 people, many of whom represented local businesses, religious institutions or other groups.
"It's too bad it's a once-a-year thing," Wedge Watkins, an attendee, said. "This is something we need to work on every day."
The 14th annual Columbia Values Diversity Awards honored the Rev. C. Richard “Dick” Blount and the MU Center for Multicultural Research, Training and Consultation. Mayor Bob McDavid presented the awards, and the winners received standing ovations. The awards generally are given to people and organizations that exemplify the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Blount was recognized for his contributions to social justice and civil rights over the past 50 years. After retiring from the pulpit, Blount formed the Open Door Ministry at Missouri United Methodist Church. It advocates the understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families.
The MU Center for Multicultural Research, Training and Consultation was recognized for its efforts to prevent prejudice and increase multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills at MU and throughout the community.
Award judges this year included George Frissell, Homer Page, Carolyn Sullivan and Georgalu Swoboda. Previous winners, including Bill and Dolores Clark, came back this year to celebrate the achievements of others.
"I think most of the people receive this award because they are living a life of diversity," Bill Clark said.
After the awards ceremony, the audience watched the "Unity in Diversity" performance, which combined dance, percussion, monologues and songs. The performance was intended to illustrate different social cleavages and the importance of bridging those gaps to promote unity. Some cast members used their own experiences with diversity as the basis for their monologues.
This event kicks off several upcoming events in Columbia which celebrate the life and teachings of King.