Brookhaven resident Aaliyah Gurthrie, joined by dog Louie, listens to Liane Levetan speak at the MLK Dinner.

Brookhaven’s fifth annual MLK Day Dinner was held Jan. 18 as a pandemic drive-in event rather than its traditional home in the city’s historically Black Lynwood Park neighborhood.

Cassandra Bryant, director of the Lynwood Recreation Center, picks up her meal at the parking lot entrance.

However, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration continued the tradition of commemorating the Civil Rights movement, including the local “Lynwood Trailblazers” who integrated the local DeKalb County public schools in the 1960s.

Mayor John Ernst, left, greets arriving DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry with a fist bump.

The program was held in the parking lot of the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA Station off Apple Valley Road. Attendees picked up a Chick-fil-A dinner and listened to the speakers via radio in their vehicles. Roughly 70 vehicles were on the scene.

Liane Levetan, a former DeKalb County CEO and state senator, rear, is greeted by City Councilmember Linley Jones.

Among the speakers was Liane Levetan, the former DeKalb County CEO and state senator, who recalled her work with the late John Williams in bringing a swimming pool to Lynwood Park. Several other local leaders spoke, including Mayor John Ernst and City Councilmember Linley Jones.

Maria Boynton of radio station V-103 sports a “Black Lives Matter” mask while serving as master of ceremonies.

“It was an evening of prayer and song and celebration, even in the face of this pandemic,” said Jones afterward. “ As I said in my remarks, Lynwood finds a way!”

Attendees gather for the dinner.

It was the first MLK Dinner following last year’s historic Black Lives Matter protests, as a result of which the city agreed to install historical markers in Lynwood Park. The city also formed a Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission that will meet throughout this year.

A sign tells attendees how to tune in to the event on their vehicle radios.

–Photos by Phil Mosier

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.