HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — It’s the third Monday in January, also known as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and several community partners in Madison County gathered Monday evening to celebrate Dr. King and hold a community conversation and dinner.

The federal holiday honors the life of the civil rights movement icon around his birthday, but Alabama Association for the Arts President Jessica Fortune Barker said the holiday is about more than celebrating.

 “We know Dr. King is his Mountain Top speech; he spoke about keeping the issues at the focal point of the work that we do,” Barker said. “So tonight…even though it’s his birthday and we could celebrate and just talk about Dr. King…we wanted to really embody the whole essence of his legacy.”

Alabama Democracy Center State Coordinator Douglas Bonner said it’s time for the current generation to build on King’s great work.

“This is our generation and our time to build on the great work that Dr. King and so many others did and sacrificed their lives in order that we have the rights that we have today,” he said.

Alabama Democracy Centers Huntsville Coordinator E.C. Rentz II, said the event was focused on service.

“All of this is about service tonight. It’s about everyone here that’s participating knowing there’s a need for people to participate through service,” he said.

The event, held at the Omega Center in Huntsville, featured several speakers and performances.

“Not everybody is going to pick up the phone to call me or shoot me an email, but today…there’s real people with real opinions here and we’re tackling real problems,” Madison County Commissioner Violet Edwards said. “So, it’s very important for me to hear what they have to say.”

Jordan McNeal, a current Alabama A&M student, said this is a great event for both the older and younger generations.

“We have a lot to learn from the older generation – what they did right and what they did wrong,” McNeal said. “We have to embrace them and embrace their conversation, understand where they came from, and how they were taught and teach them our ways so we can come to an understanding so we can make an impact for the next generation coming.”

Engaged, educated, and empowered – that’s what event organizers hope attendees will take away from this event and put out into the community.

“Everyone can be great because anyone can serve,” Psi Kappa Kappa Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. President Micheal Mathis said. “If we always keep that serving attitude and we’re always looking to help other people…somebody else is looking to help us too, so we’re never neglected and no one else is neglected. It’s definitely community-based and community-driven.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the Alabama Association for the Arts, you can find them here.