While focusing on the theme "Caring for the Dream," Ashland held its 22nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration to a standing room-only crowd of more than 850 on Tuesday afternoon at the Ashland Armory. The memorial featured entertainment, remembrances and a continuing call to action from many area groups and performers.
Event committee member Claudia Alick believes due to the ongoing world situation and the earthquake in Haiti in particular, the "Caring for the Dream" message is of timely importance.
"Last year's event was more of a celebration, looking at the work we have done so far," said Alick. "This year is all about caring for the dream and how to keep it going."
Alick said last year's celebration theme was tied in to the election of the first black president, but there is much more involved than just celebrating and now is the time for action."
"It's all about how we can make sure it's not just a one day 'talking the talk' message," Alick said, "We have to make it last the entire year."
Alicks believes the dream has made amazing progress over the years, but as an idea, it will continue to evolve.
"In comparison to the 1960s, hell yeah, we've made progress, but in terms of since last week, no," Alicks said.
Tuesdays Keynote speaker was Maria Ramos Underwood, Development Director of La Clinica, whom Alicks believes best embodies the spirit of 'Caring for the Dream" in the community. While addressing the crowd, she was flanked by two large screens showing images of King and the era.
Underwood believed she would be speaking on healthcare issues and the like, but due to current events, had to change her theme.
"I struggled about what to talk about today, and it's not healthcare," Underwood said as she addressed the crowd. "I'm going to plug two very important issues: Do whatever you can to help Haiti and vote yes on measures 66 and 67. Our schools depend on it.
Underwood also emphasized King's message in relation to many current events.
"I was trying to explain the California proposition 8 amendment, and my daughter wanted to know how people can dictate the happiness of others." said Underwood, "and we know in our hearts it is wrong. The truth is it is nothing more than the ugly face discrimination."
Underwood closed with a quote from King: "We must always remember Dr. King's words: 'Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.'"
Following Underwood's speech, a group of veterans from the White City Veterans Administration facility in attendance were asked to stand up, when Richardson thanked them for their service.
Veteran Emmanuel Milton, 60, originally from "a small country town in Arizona," was in attendance to keep King's memory alive and to celebrate what he stood for. Milton grew up during segregation and remembers it all too well. He believes things have changed drastically.
"All this change is very significant. During Martin Luther King's days it was never even thought there would be a black president, or even a black governor for that matter." said Milton, "and to see how far the world has come, even just here, it is really wonderful."
Due to the size and diversity of the celebration, preparation for the event began in October of last year. Many were involved, including performers, organizations from throughout the greater Rogue Valley and 40 plus volunteers who were a key element in the smooth operation of MLK event.
Alick said she was indebted to all, particularly Southern Oregon University, The Southern Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Stage Works, and Rogue Valley Community Television, which provided live streaming of the event. Oregon Stage Works provided event overflow, where about 35 people viewed the live stream.
After the two-hour event, those in attendance were led to the Plaza by members of SOU's Black Student Union to listen to Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" Speech, followed by a performance of the Rogue Valley Peace Choir.