Event Monday to culminate with a walk from Historic Armory to Ashland Plaza to listen to Dr. King’s 1963 Freedom March speech
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
After three years of hosting a scaled-back commemoration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and work due to COVID-19, the full-fledged celebration returns to the Historic Ashland Armory on Monday, Jan. 15, with plans for those gathered to walk from the armory to the Plaza to hear the “I Have A Dream” speech.
Doors open for the 36th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at 11:30 a.m. with the program running from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Historic Ashland Armory at 208 Oak St. The event is free, open to the public and is family-friendly.
Seating is limited and available on a first-come basis.
The celebration and online simulcast are sign-language interpreted.
This year’s keynote speech will be delivered by historian, educator, and longtime emcee D.L. Richardson. Richardson is also a board member for Black Southern Oregon Alliance.
The celebration’s theme is “We Choose Love! Now more than ever, the DREAM must continue.”
Richardson said the theme covers a broad range of issues in the world, including everything from wars in the world to hate faced by students locally and nationally.
“We just wanted to speak out against that and finally say, we’re not going to be pulled down into the hate that the world is trying to pull us down to,” Richardson said.
“We’ll follow Dr. King and we will choose love as he did, as he spoke of,” he added.
“We’re going to follow his teachings and follow the dream … and try to be a better society, a better community.”
The celebration will include messages from faith leaders in the valley, and performances by the Ashland School District Middle School Choir, the Rogue Valley Peace Choir, BASE Youth Dancers, spoken word from area students, and
The Friends of Bishop Mayfield Band who will perform a tribute to the beloved local blues legend.
There will also be a slideshow presentation on the need for the Civil Rights Movement, 60 years after passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“We want to make sure that we identify why that’s so important,” Richardson said.
At the very end, the Black Student Union from SOU will lead the march from the armory to the Plaza to listen to King’s famous speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Richardson said.
The Kirby Shaw Singers will perform at the Plaza soon afterward.
During the event’s hiatus from being held at the Historic Ashland Armory, Ashland City Councilor Gina DuQuenne organized gatherings on the Plaza, Richardson said.
Richardson said having the full event back in place will be very special for the community.
While the event is free, donations are welcome and everyone is encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the SOU Food Pantry, according to a news release. Sponsors and participating organizations, in addition to SOU, include the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, Travel Ashland, the city of Ashland, Ashland School District, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland Food Co-Op, Black Southern Oregon Alliance and Black Alliance for Social Empowerment.
Southern Oregon University will join several other local organizations in sponsoring this year’s event.
The show will also be live-streamed at SOMLK.org.
Walker Elementary students will also participate in a separate march at 9 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, from the school to SOU’s Stevenson Union, where they will gather for a special program for students emceed by Richardson in the Rogue River Room.
“I’ve been doing that with them for so many years,” Richardson said. “It’s one of my favorite things all year to have an opportunity to see all these kids and the joy that they have in learning about the day.”
Note: D.L. Richardson is a board member of Ashland.news.
Reach Ashland.news staff reporter Holly Dillemuth at email@example.com.