In his honor

Local celebrations mark the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and offer occasions to remember and reflect the ideals of racial unity left to the world by the late civil rights leader.

As an American clergyman and an active civil rights leader in the '50s and '60s, King conceived a caring, compassionate world where people of all races, religions and cultures lived together as one family.

Ashland's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, with the theme of "Civil Rights and Civil Discourse," is set for noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St.

Produced by a group of community volunteers and sponsored by the Ashland School District, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the City of Ashland, Jefferson Public Radio and Southern Oregon University, the event will feature keynote speaker Magdaleno Rose-Avila of the Social Justice Fund in Seattle.

Living as a migrant worker at the age of 11 gave Rose-Avila the drive to support workers' rights. He organized workers in Colorado and eventually became a spokesperson for Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers Union. He also was a leading voice in the Chicano Movement that emerged during the Civil Rights era.

He has been a director in the Peace Corps, worked for the Democratic National Committee, Colorado Legal Services and The Colorado Migrant Council and taught sociology at several Colorado colleges.

From 1985 to 1993, Rose-Avila held positions for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights organization Amnesty International USA.

D.L. Richardson of SOU will emcee the event. Staying with King's ideal of diversity, the ceremony will offer a variety of speakers, dance and poetry, including David and Gabe Young, Las Colibri, Liquid Fire Mantra, Natalie Tyler and students from the Ashland School District and SOU. Donations of nonperishable food items will be accepted.

As a Baptist minister, King led the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama in 1955. It was a nonviolent protest opposing the city's policy of racial segregation on its public transit system. It began when an African-American woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person. It ended in 1956 when a federal ruling declared Alabama segregation laws unconstitutional.

King's mission was to outlaw racial discrimination and restore voting rights in Southern states. The efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. The event expanded America's vision of a colorblind society and established King's reputation as a strong public speaker.

Ashland TV will provide a simultaneous broadcast of the ceremony at Culture Works, 310 Oak St., where the Peace Choir will perform.

A march to the Ashland Plaza will follow the ceremony, led by Lotus Rising Teen Theater. King's speech, "I Have a Dream," will be played at the Plaza.

"Mosaic of Culture: Yes, We Can!" is the selected theme for a Medford tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. sponsored by the Medford MLK Task Force and the Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon. The event will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 16, in the auditorium at the old South Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale Ave.

Medford's celebration will open with remarks by emcee Nicole Vilencia of KZEE FM 106.3 and Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler. A showcase of local talent will follow, including Sakura Bon Dance Group, Rogue Ringers Handbell Choir, WickedFX Dance Crew, Ballet Folklóroco Ritmo Alegre, Michelle Belamy and her Rogue Fam Jan, Kent Heyward and his Living on Dreams Band, Kids Unlimited's Project Life and more.

Youth activist Michelle Glass and Pastor David Gomez will be recognized for their work as community leaders with the Medford MLK Task Force "I Have a Dream Award."

Refreshments will be provided, and donations of nonperishable food will be accepted for ACCESS Food Share.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other nonviolent means. By the time of his assassination in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and stopping the Vietnam War. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.

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