Cary Dreamfest Connects Civil Rights Movement to Present Day

Cary, NC – For almost 30 years, the Town of Cary has celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But as the event returns for 2019, it has grown from remembering King and the Civil Rights movement to reflecting on its impact on the present day and how these topics are still relevant.

From the Civil Rights Era to Now

The Town of Cary’s MLK, Jr. Dreamfest 2019 runs from Friday to Monday, January 18 to 21, primarily taking place at the Cary Arts Center in Downtown Cary, with events at the Cary Theater and Good Hope Farm as well. Since the event started in the 1990s, Cary Arts Program and Operations Coordinator Robbie Stone said it has grown.

“When we first started, it was about remembrance. Now, we’re also continuing conversations on social justice from the Civil Rights era,” Stone said.

This year’s Dreamfest includes documentaries on Civil Rights work in North Carolina and a symposium on affordable housing in Wake County. In August 1966, King spoke to the Chicago Freedom Movement about fair and affordable housing, saying in his speech, “Now is the time to get rid of the slums and ghettos of Chicago. Now is the time to make justice a reality all over this nation.”

Stone said this is all part of highlighting the work of King as well as continuing the work of him and other Civil Rights era figures.

“The committee feels the social issues MLK advocated have come to the forefront in the past few years and Dreamfest should reflect that,” Stone said.

Cary Arts Center

Something for Everyone

Dreamfest has a full schedule including not just talks and documentaries but also music and events for children. All events are free.

  • Building the Dream: Affordable Housing in Wake County Symposium – Friday, January 18 at 9 AM, Cary Arts Center
  • Remembering Leaders of the Dream (children’s event) – Saturday, January 19 at 10 AM, Cary Arts Center
  • “Wilmington on Fire” documentary screening – Saturday, January 19 at 2 PM, Cary Arts Center
  • Celebrating the Dream music concert – Saturday, January 19 at 8 PM, Cary Arts Center
  • “Al, My Brother” documentary screening – Sunday, January 20 at 2 PM, the Cary Theater
  • MLK Day of Service – Monday, January 21 from 10 AM to 4 PM, Good Hope Farm, registration required

“Anyone can find something that interests them,” Stone said.

Included in Dreamfest is “Remembering Leaders of the Dream,” a story-time event led by award-winning storyteller and author Willa Brigham about Civil Rights figures.

“We always try to have at least one event geared toward children,” Stone said.

Not only will this event teach children about important people in the Civil Rights movement but there will also be a King impersonator who will recite one of his speeches.

“It’s teaching the kids not only who these people are but why it is important to know them,” Stone said.

Every year, Dreamfest ends with the Day of Service on MLK Day, Monday, January 21, 2019. While people can volunteer however they choose, there is a volunteer day at Good Hope Farm, the urban farm owned by the Town of Cary. People can volunteer in two-hour shifts with a variety of tasks around the farm, and there will also be an associated food drive.

“It’s always important to the Town of Cary to organize a way to give back to the community,” Stone said.

Good Hope Farm also has weekend volunteer workdays year-round.


Story by Michael Papich. Photos by Ron Cogswell and Hal Goodtree.