State Rep. Jolanda Jones, Dr. Polly Sparks Turner and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 14: State Rep. Jolanda Jones, Dr. Polly Sparks Turner and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee at the 27th Annual Celebration MLK Jr. Day on January 14, 2023 at the Children's Museum in Houston, TX (Photo by Jimmie Aggison/Houston Defender)

Children’s Museum Houston (CMH) once again celebrated the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) in grand style, with their 27th Annual MLK Day Celebration.

“The event was great,” said Children’s Museum Houston Director of Visitor Experience, Lauren Bell. “I’ve been working this event for 11 years now, and it’s one my favorite ones here.”

Photos by Jimmie Aggison

Those in attendance were treated to seeing the first and second-place winners, HISD elementary students Kadence Smith and Journey Sensley, respectively, in the 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, perform their winning speeches. Attendees also experienced a musical rendition of “Amazing Grace” by violinist Jamie Perry, an acapella version of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” by Dr. Kiana Williams and inspiring words from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who introduced this year’s Carry-a-Kid Award honoree, the esteemed Dr. Polly Sparks Turner.

“What a wonderful day celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Children’s Museum Houston’s annual observance,” said Andrea Bonner, vice president of programs, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Alpha Kappa Omega Chapter. “It was an honor to witness Dr. Polly Sparks Turner, 20th South Central Regional Director of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. receive the Caryakid Award for her lifelong commitment to service. Whether breaking glass ceilings or empowering the next generation, she is an inspiration to all who know and love her.”

State Rep. Jolanda Jones, who was personally mentored by Turner, shared a personal testimony about Turner’s commitment to educational excellence, professional barrier-breaking and the sorority of Turner, Jones and Jackson-Lee—Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Children’s Museum Houston Kid’s Committee members Sofia and Carly led the annual “Power of Dreams with Peace” March held in the museum, with children re-enacting many of the marches of the Civil Rights Movements.

At the march, Steve Scott reenacted King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and Ministry in Motion youth performed.

“I’m so glad that they are still making sure children know our history,” said community activist Tomaro Bell. “When people wanted to get rid of ‘critical race theory’ and wanted to put every quote that says somebody was Black out of a school, they need to know how we got where we are. And the Children’s Museum for decades has embraced this day and made sure that the children of Houston could get that history and knowledge about the Houstonians here that people might not know about.”

Bell said Children’s Museum Houston’s annual MLK Day event has made a difference in thousands of children’s lives by not only celebrating King, but also uplifting a local change agent.

“The CMH has honored Dr. Thomas Freeman, Dr. Edith Jones, Dr. Reverend Lawson, Commissioner Gene Locke, Faye Bryant, Polly Turner. So, it means a lot so the children know history is not way down the block. It’s right around the corner,” added Bell, a former Super Neighborhood president.

The event was sponsored by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in partnership with the Defender Network, with support from the Center for Civil & Public Policy Improvement.

“Having the congresswoman (Sheila Jackson Lee) come out and being able to honor people in the community who have carried on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s message, and for the youth to be able to see that, and working here at the museum and being able to do all these different diversity cultural events, has always a favorite of mine,” added Lauren Bell.