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South Sound celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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The year 2015 kicks off fittingly with several local celebrations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While the official Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls on Monday, Jan. 19, there are several events being held before and after this national holiday to help people of all races and ages start off the new year giving honor to Dr. King’s message of equality, hope and love for all people.


The City of Tacoma’s signature event – the 27th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration – seeks to build on that message of service and encourages the entire community to join together to celebrate Monday, Jan. 19 as a day on, not a day off. This year’s theme is “11 Days in the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Honoring His Legacy in 2015.”
The event will take place at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center (1500 Broadway in Tacoma, WA). It is expected to draw roughly 2,000 - 3,000 adults and children. Doors will open at 10 a.m. and the event will start at 11 a.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring donations of non-perishable food items for the MLK Food Drive benefiting Emergency Food Network.

The event will include a performance of “11 Days in the Life of Dr. King,” presented by the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts. “Eleven Days” chronicles Dr. King’s life and legacy through spoken word vignettes, dance, shadow play and historic images. It focuses on Dr. King’s relationship with communities, how he challenged and changed our nation, and his message to honor the dignity and rights of every person. 

Melannie Denise Cunningham will be this year’s keynote speaker. Ms. Cunningham has lived in Tacoma/Pierce County for 42 years, and her career spans several industries including federal, city and state government, non-profit, radio, television, higher education and entrepreneurship. She is a strategic thinker and a person who always brings a fresh perspective and positive attitude to any situation or environment.
In addition to free holiday on-street parking and free parking at Freighthouse Square (2501 E. D St.), which is easily accessible via LINK light rail from the Convention Center stop located directly in front of the event venue, there will also be signage and personnel directing event attendees to designated complimentary parking stalls that will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center (1500 Broadway). 


Lakewood's 12th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration will be held on Saturday, Jan. 17 at the Sharon McGavick Conference Center from 10 am to noon. The theme for this year’s event is “The Dream in Action.”

Prior to the formal opening, a commemorative, 30-minute “Civil Rights” march will start at 9 a.m. in front of the McGavick Conference Center. The march will end back at the Conference Center at 9:30 a.m. The public is invited to attend both the march and the celebration. Admission and parking are free.

This year’s event will feature a wonderful variety of talented performers to include: The Total Experience Gospel Choir, The Prairie Bells, trumpeter Morris Northcutt, the Irish Dancers, the Clover Park High School Choir, the Chang Hee Suk drummers, the Freedom Dancers, plus many more outstanding performers.

Welcome remarks will be given by Don Anderson, Lakewood Mayor. Keynote speaker will be Dr. Dexter B. Gordon, Director of African American Studies Program and Professor of Communications at the University of Puget Sound. The event will also feature a reading by the winner of the Clover Park School District Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. essay contest. Additional guests include displays and representatives from the Buffalo Soldiers Museum and the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society.

So mark Jan. 17 on your calendar and be sure you don't miss this outstanding event of music, dancing, song, history and more.

For more information contact Jo Ethel Smith at (253) 584-4673 or Dennis Higashiyama at (253) 589-2489. The Sharon McGavick Conference Center is located at the Clover Park Technical College, 4500 Steilacoom Blvd., Lakewood.


In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Washington State History Museum is offering free admission to all on Monday, Jan. 19 along with a program encouraging the discussion about how diversity and community change are communicated through children’s literature, a community photo project, and a food drive.

The Washington State History Museum has made a long-term annual commitment to support the community commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Through programs and exhibits that engage, entertain and educate, the historical society brings to life stories that tell the history of civil rights and the national issues that Dr. King challenged America to overcome.

Following the conclusion of the MLK Day Celebration at the Tacoma Convention Center, the Washington State History Museum invites the public to spend the afternoon touring exhibits and attending a panel discussion titled “Diversity and Changemaking in Children’s Literature.” Children’s book authors, illustrators, and librarians will discuss the themes of diversity and community change as they are portrayed in children’s stories.

“Children’s literature is an impactful way to share the importance of civil rights,” explains Jennifer Kilmer, Director of the Washington State Historical Society. “Encouraging the values of diversity, inclusion, and community change is our way of honoring Dr. King.”

Bring non-perishable food items to the History Museum on Jan. 19 to contribute to the national day of service. Donations will be given to the Emergency Food Network along with the donations by the attendees of the program held by the City of Tacoma.

Visitors are also asked to bring a picture of something that exemplifies changemaking in the community, accompanied by a one-two paragraph explanation. Images and their captions will be posted on the Community Wall, encouraging open discussion. If you can’t visit the museum that day, the wall will be on view for a week or you can send your images and captions to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) so staff can post them for you.

The museum, located at 1911 Pacific Ave., will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 19.


Rosa Clemente, black Puerto Rican community organizer, journalist, and former Green Party vice presidential candidate, will speak at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at University of Puget Sound. The event, marking the university’s 29th year of honoring King’s legacy, will start at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20, in Schneebeck Concert Hall on campus. The celebration is free and everyone is welcome. The doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Bronx-born entrepreneur and hip-hop activist Rosa Clemente will headline a program including messages from Puget Sound community members, live music from members of the college’s Jazz Band, and the presentation of the Keep Living the Dream Award to a student leader.

Clemente, named one of the “Top 50 Hip-Hop Activists” by Red Eye Magazine in 2002, has been living up to that title for more than a decade. She has advocated for youth and justice on both sides of the microphone, covering Hurricane Katrina as a journalist and co-hosting the New York radio show “Where We Live,” as well as giving interviews to CNN, Democracy Now radio and National Public Radio. She has written for outlets including The Black World Today and The Final Call, and she has been quoted in Village Voice and The New York Times, among other media.

“I am not Spanish . . . I am not Hispanic. My ancestors are not descendants of Spain, but descendants of Africa. I define my existence by race and land,” she wrote in a blog featured in Huffington Post in 2013. “Being Black is my racial identity. . . . My Blackness is one of the greatest powers I have.”

Clemente decries the chasm between Latinos and blacks, and the anti-black sentiment in America that has contributed to this. She tries to draw communities together and to empower young people. She has presented at more than 200 venues on topics including “African-American and Latino/a Intercultural Relations,” “Hip-Hop Activism,” and “Women, Feminism and Hip-Hop.”