COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— “We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity,” Dr. Martin Luther King said during his I Had a Dream speech in 1963. “I have a dream that my poor little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Each year on this national holiday, people are called to reflect on the sacrifices made and the work that is still yet to be done.

One day after what would have been Dr. King’s 94th birthday, nearly 600 residents of the Chattahoochee Valley gathered to honor the legacy he left behind. Their focus, supporting the children of the community.

Alpha Phi Alpha, Dr. King’s pledged fraternity, hosted their 37th annual Unity Award Breakfast to raise funds for their Unity Award Scholarship that is awarded to deserving students in our area.

“We’ve been doing this for 37 years, and it’s a great deal of excitement for us because although Dr. King is no longer with us, his dream still lives. We have not arrived with everything he dreamed about, but there are still things to work on. So, we try to keep the community engaged and keep the dream alive,” Alpha Phi Alpha Delta Iota Lamda Chapter President Morgan Hill told WRBL.

To build up the Chattahoochee Valley’s children, Columbus chapter Delta Iota Lamda has raised more than half a million dollars for deserving students over nearly four decades.

“These scholarships that we provide from this event is to help kids help pay for college. We know college is very expensive. So, by raising these funds and having students in poverty scholarships and award them with the funds, it’s a big help to them,” Hill said.

City leaders, organizers, and keynote speaker Judge Glenda Hatchett believe education is key to one day achieve Dr. King’s dream.

“Let me tell you why I’m so passionate about this issue, about education. Because a child who drops out of high school, hear this, is three and a half times more likely to have a criminal record, seven times more likely to be dependent on welfare during their lifetime. And seven and a half times more likely to have a child who will then be a dropout,” Hatchett said. “We have got to break the generational cycle. Education can and must be an equalizer.”

Additionally, Judge Hatchett believes communities should engage with their children by offering them better after school care, extracurriculars, encouraging them to join community service projects and Boys and Girls Clubs to help build a future Dr. King dreamt of.

Alpha Phi Alpha’s Unity Award breakfast is just one event used to help support the children of the Chattahoochee Valley in their effort to keeping Dr. King’s legacy alive.

Each year living legacies of Dr. King are chosen for the Unity Award. In year’s past Columbus trailblazer A.J. McClung, Representative Calvin Smyre, and Congressman Sanford Bishop have been chosen.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson, Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe and other city leaders were in attendance to witness Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Ben Richardson be named 2023’s Unity Award Recipient.

This past July, Judge Richardson became the first African American judge on the seven-judge Chattahoochee Circuit bench since 2014. Richardson is a graduate of Howard University and the University of Georgia School of Law.