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Orange County MLK Initiative aims to engage community all year long

Image of a group of people posing with a UCF mascot in Downtown Orlando during the 2023 MLK Day Parade.
A group of people pose with a UCF mascot in Downtown Orlando during the 2023 MLK Day Parade.

Orange County is on Monday partnering with U.S. Hunger and the City of Orlando to pack one million nutritious meals for local families during an “MLK Day of Service,” one of the first events listed on this year’s calendar for the county’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Initiative.

Built around the late civil rights leader’s six principles of nonviolence, the initiative aims to honor King’s legacy by promoting and coordinating a range of community programs, from different cultural activities to a “book club” of recommended reading material.

Since the book club launched in 2020, group members appointed by Mayor Jerry Demings compile a list of recommended book titles that center some of King’s core values, like kindness, hope, fairness and equality, according to Orange County.

For Earl Mowatt, who co-chairs the initiative, the book club reflects a major focus for the group: youth engagement.

“There is such a charge within the initiative … to appeal to youth,” Mowatt said. “How do we get youth engaged, build literacy and education?”

Image of different children's books that are about, or reflective of, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his values.
Different children's books reflective of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his values are displayed on a table in this file photo shared by the county's MLK Initiative.

The initiative’s upcoming youth networking event for middle and high schoolers, planned for February 10, will encourage young people to embrace networking as an effective way to advance in life, Mowatt said.

“Once they start getting engaged at this young age, they remember this, right, and they then become community engaged [and] oriented,” Mowatt said.

Events featured on the Orange County MLK Initiative’s calendar run through December. The Orlando Mayor’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission also lists upcoming community events.

Molly is an award-winning reporter with a background in video production and investigative journalism, focused on covering environmental issues for WMFE and WMFV.