Fit for a King

There will be no shortage of events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Ashland. The city's 25th annual observance of the late civil rights leader's birthday is set for noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St.

This year's event kicks off with a 25-year retrospective of Ashland's MLK celebrations compiled by Ashland High School Principal Michelle Zundell. Master of ceremonies D.L. Richardson, a professor of journalism at Southern Oregon University, will present opening remarks and a history of civil rights.

The celebration will offer a variety of tributes to King and his legacy of peace and understanding between faiths and cultures through music, poetry and dance.

A choir from Scenic Middle School will sing "Martin Luther King Walked in Peace," and Gerome Preston Bates of Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2013 production of August Wilson's "Two Trains Running" will present an inspirational talk.

"There will be a group of leaders from the community, called the Community Protectors, who will talk about their work to protect King's dream," says Claudia Alick, artistic curator of the event.

Christina Robinson, who is cast in OSF's "My Fair Lady" this year, will read from African-American poet Sonia Sanchez's "For Sweet Honey in the Rock," and Ashland DanceWorks will present a choreographed performance that juxtaposes classical music with hip-hop beats and spoken words by King. An OSF company also will perform singer and songwriter Amy Dixon-Kolar's "Rosa Sat," a song written for Barack Obama after his first presidential election.

"The lyrics go 'Rosa sat so Martin could walk, Martin walked so Barack could run, Barack ran that our children could fly,' " Alick says.

OSF technicians are working to tape President Obama's inaugural speech in Washington, D.C., earlier in the day and rebroadcast it at the Armory.

"The synchronicity of these two events is just too hard to resist," Alick says.

After tributes at the Armory, Southern Oregon University's Black Student Union will lead a march to Lithia Park, where there will be a broadcast of King's "I Have a Dream" and vocal performances by Rogue Valley Peace Choir.

Admission is free, but donations of nonperishable food will be accepted for ACCESS, and the American Red Cross will be accepting blood donations at Umpqua Bank.

The event will be streamed live via at Carpenter Hall, 44 S. Pioneer St., in the case of full audience capacity at the Armory.

Later in the day, Amnesty International's Southern Oregon Chapter and the United Nations Club of SOU will host discussion of the appreciation and acceptance of diversity and tolerance in America. Panel speakers will include Richardson, Rabbi Joshua Boettiger of Temple Emek Shalom and Kurt Katzmar, pastor of Medford's Congregational United Church of Christ.

The discussion is at 6 p.m. in the Rogue River Room of the Stevenson Union on the SOU campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd. Doors will open at 5 p.m. for refreshments. Admission is free.

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