The annual Realizing the Dream concert and banquet honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been cancelled and replaced by a documentary and arts/ essay contest.

In 1990, the University of Alabama started hosting the Realizing the Dream concert in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. Each year there is a different theme for the event. This year the theme is Realizing the Dream Through Justice For All.

The Realizing the Dream website said that the committee "exists to raise consciousness about injustice and promote human equality, peace and social justice by creating educational and cultural opportunities for growth, empowerment and social change so that every person may experience the bounty of life’s abundant possibilities."

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This year Realizing the Dream will release a documentary produced by the Center for Public Television. In a press release, UA's Office of Community Affairs Office said that the documentary "will chronicle the vision and aspirations of those who founded the event in 1990, as well as its impact on individuals and the community."

The office also said that "founders and key officials from Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, The University of Alabama and the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference" will be featured in the film and will get to reflect on the experiences.

"We thought it was a good time to [release a documentary] since we couldn't gather in person [and] maybe share what we've tried to do [and] how," said Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president of Community Affairs at the University of Alabama and chair of the Realizing the Dream Committee.

The Office of Community Affairs also said that the documentary "will feature those who have been recognized over the years" including but not limited to "Reverend Thomas Linton, former Tuscaloosa police chief Ken Swindle and attorney Cleo Thomas, Jr." This will be accomplished "through the use of current and archival interviews."

The Realizing the Dream Committee will also be creating an archive comprised of photos from previous events. While this will include images from the UA archives the committee encourages individuals to submit photos as well.

The documentary and archive will debut at 6:01 pm on April 6th. This date and time is significant as it closely follows the anniversary of the assassination of Dr, King on April 4, 1968 at 6:01 pm.

Pruitt said the committee is unsure about how the documentary will be released and said it could be aired on WVUA 23.

In addition to the documentary, Realizing the Dream is hosting an essay and art contest for K-12 students in the state that is focused on the event's theme.

Pruitt said that students will be "submitting their thoughts through artistic pieces [centered] around the theme, Realizing the Dream Through Justice for All [and] what that means for them."

"Selected students will be asked to share insights about their work in an online setting on Thursday, April 8, at 6 p.m.," said the office for Community Affairs. "Those students featured will receive special recognition, as well as earn funding to support this important work at their respective schools."

The office also said that the event date was chosen for its close proximity to Dr. King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which was written on April 16, 1963.

"We're trying to encourage young people to recognize how important the ability to communicate is and so we tie that [into the] showcasing [of] their work on April 8 [because it] so close to the time that he released this letter," Pruitt said.

While this year is different, Pruitt said that Dr. King's legacy will not be hindered by the pandemic.

“We look forward to sharing these important annual events with the public, even if we are unable to do so face-to-face at this time," said Pruitt. "Dr. King’s legacy is too important for us to let something like COVID-19 prevent us from continuing to recognize what Dr. King means to our campus, community and state. The show WILL go on.”

The Community Affairs office also said that more events will take place "throughout the year on a quarterly basis and may include guest lecturers and performing artists."

Events early in the year will take place virtually, but the office hopes to host in-person events later in the year. Details about future events will be announced as they become available.

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