It’s time to come together and start 2017 off right as the Unity 5K on MLK and Music Festival returns to Forsyth Park on Jan. 14 for the fourth year.
The event begins at 10 a.m. with the kiddie run followed by the Unity 5K. The race wraps up at Forsyth Park with a free, family-friendly music festival featuring headlining artist Clay James, a rising Atlanta-based rap artist who recently signed with Snoop Dogg’s relaunched Doggystyle Records.
For organizer Mahogany Bowers, the third time she held this event was the charm.
“Yes, last year was our third annual event,” she says. “That’s a big thing; to hold an event three times. It meant we are official; we are legit and we aren’t leaving.”
She says the day is about unity and coming together in a healthy and collective way as a community.
“We’ll start the day by moving with the 5K … and then the music festival starts with gospel, goes to R&B and soul, then to jazz and funk, and then at the end, we get into more new-age rap.
“… A lot of local artists are coming out to sing. We have dance teams and dance lines performing, so it will definitely be a family-friendly event where you will want to bring out your chairs, blankets and picnic baskets and enjoy free entertainment for the day.”
Bowers’ enthusiasm for creating a successful yearly event stems from the passion she has for her nonprofit, Blessings in a Book Bag, which has been operating for almost six years now. The proceeds from the 5K run will benefit the organization as it continues to grow.
“We have grown to serve not only Otis J. Brock Elementary School, but we are also at Building Bridges Academy,” Bowers says. “We are now feeding 130 children every Friday.”
She adds that the original goal of the program was to provide nutritious meals to children and their families who qualify for reduced and free lunches at school so they have food for the weekend. Bowers adds that they are also able to provide school uniforms and school supplies to these families. Other extended services include free breakfast programs for senior citizens as well as holiday meals at Moses Jackson Community Center. The addition of a summer program is also new and Bowers wants the community to know their funds are being used to provide these meals and services to so many needy families.
“We want people to come by and see what we are doing,” she adds. “… I’m very clear that there is a lot going on … and one thing I stand behind — and I’m very proud of — is that Blessings in a Book Bag is working and you can see it.”
She adds that the community can help in three ways: volunteer, donate money and donate food and supplies. A list of needed items is on the website, too, at blessingsinabookbag.org.
And she says that this year, the program needs a van to provide more services to children in the after-school program and to get elderly citizens to and from their program.
“Our goal for 2017 is to get a van or a bus. Hopefully someone out there can help us,” she says.
“… I always try to keep our community moving and … engaging children. My hope is that we’ll offset the mindset for the rest of the year with this event.”
IF YOU GO
What: Unity 5K on MLK and Music Festival
When: Jan 14; sign-up begins at 8 a.m., race begins at 10 a.m.
Where: Forsyth Park
Cost: 5K run is $30 in advance or $40 on race day; music festival is free and open to public