This year's program "Keeping the Dream Alive: Continuing the Journey" was especially significant as it coincides with the NAACP's centennial. The Cobb County branch of the NAACP and Cobb County government help to sponsor the yearly celebration.
Deane Bonner, president of Cobb County NAACP, said in planning this year's celebration the focus was to showcase the talent of the youth of Cobb County and Atlanta to continue the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"That was the significance of having that amount of youthful talent," Bonner said. "Those are people that we see as future leaders, certainly carrying the legacy of the NAACP to the next hundred years."
In the seats of the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre, both young and old were participating in the celebration. The theater was filled to capacity, with overflow seating across the courtyard in Hudgins Hall.
Kicking off the ceremony was a dance performance by the Paisley Academy of Performing Arts, and ballet and tap solo performances by the Ray Hall dancers.
A greeting from Sam Olens, Cobb County Commission Chairman, and Jerine Grimes, first vice president of the NAACP, welcomed the audience to the 24th annual celebration. Also speaking about the significance of the day was Congressman Phil Gingrey.
"Today, and I've heard others say, is a day on and not a day off. We need to treat this day, just as we would treat our Sundays, those of us who are Christians, the Sabbath, those of us of the Jewish faith," said Gingrey during the opening comments.
The Master of Ceremonies, WSB-TV's Fred Blankenship, helped to liven up the crowd, get them laughing, and clapping and singing along with various performers.
Entertainment scattered throughout the ceremony highlighted various genres. From the singing of inspirational anthems like, "Lift Every Voice," to modern dance routines, to the performance of an original composition called, "Freedom is Not Free," by the all-female rock group 2BContinued, helped to liven the celebration.
Stepehen Norwood's rendition of Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," brought the crowd to its feet in jubilation.
Norwood, 19, of Dunwoody said he was honored to perform in the event because of King's message and goal of equality.
"Today, it really meant a lot to me, because I really am a strong believer in equality for everyone, regardless of their race, religion, what have you," Norwood said.
Betty McKeever-Gordon, 64, of Austell, saw the auditions to perform at Monday's ceremony as a golden opportunity to carry on King's message. Gordon led the audience in the singing of the National Anthem.
"Dr. King, I believe, he would be very pleased to see all the talent that has been here today, especially the young people ... I really have enjoyed it, it's been fantastic," Gordon said of the celebration.
At the culmination of the ceremony, Bonner and David Hankerson, Cobb County Manager, presented Joeanne Thomas of Marietta with this year's Living the Dream Award.
"She's been one of those unsung heroines that has done what she needed to do to make Cobb County and Marietta a better place to live," Bonner said.
Thomas runs an at-school tutorial and homework assistance program called the Life Skills Center for school children from kindergarten to high school in Marietta.
After winning the award, Thomas said that she was overwhelmed with gratitude and grateful to be honored at an event commemorating Dr. King.
"I have a lot of awards, and I was talking to myself the other night, my goal was to get this award one day. And I was really surprised today when I got it, but I very much appreciate it, because this is the ultimate award. It's like winning the Grammy or the Emmy," Thomas said.
In the planning of the day's event, Bonner said the goal of the NAACP is inspire the community and to encourage them to go out and live Dr. King's message.
"We don't take all the credit for this crowd. We know that these people have a homage to Dr. King and that's why we fill these seat," Bonner said. "... We don't want this just to be a Dr. Martin Luther King Day, we want this to be something that you are going to continue after today."