For the first time in its 25-year history, the City of Tacoma has moved its community celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to a new location.
Organizers moved Monday’s event from the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall to the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center because they expect a larger-than-normal crowd due to this year’s keynote speaker, Clayborne Carson, regarded as one of the nation’s top authorities on the work of the slain civil rights leader.
The new location provides visitors better access to restaurants and shops and other holiday events in the vicinity, said city spokeswoman Maria Lee.
“It gives people the opportunity to participate in all these other events, as well as the premier city event at the convention center,” Lee said. “It’s just easier for attendees overall.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Monday is the federal holiday observance of King’s birthday (his real birthday was Jan. 15), but South Sound gatherings over five straight days will commemorate the occasion.
• Bates Technical College will host a public program from 11:30 a.m-1 p.m. at the college’s South Campus Auditorium, 2201 S. 78th St. in Tacoma.
The program will focus on the Washington march and King’s speech. Spoken-word poet Lucas Smiraldo, also known as Vanilla Soul, and Moses Harris, local activist and a leader from the civil rights era, will be featured.
• Saint Martin’s University in Lacey will hold its celebration from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Norman Worthington Conference Center on campus.
The event will feature a Southern-style dinner and remarks by Tyler Calvi, the university’s student body president, and Dr. Roy Heynderickx, the university’s president. The event is free to the public.
A performance by spoken word poet Chas Jackson will round out the evening.
• The City of Lakewood will hold its 10th annual event from 10 a.m-noon at the Sharon McGavick Conference Center at Clover Park Technical College, 4500 Steilacoom Blvd. Admission and parking are free.
The theme is “World War II: Discrimination at Home, Patriotism Abroad.” Featured speakers include Sam Mitsui, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and two famed Tuskegee Airmen, retired Col. Al Knight and retired Lt. Col. Ed Drummond. Representatives of the World War II Philippine Scouts will also be on hand. City Councilman Mary Moss will make welcoming remarks.
Entertainment includes gospel singing, music and a reading by the winner of the Clover Park School District’s essay contest.
Phil Raschke, a member of the organizing committee, said the group wanted to take a different tack as prior celebrations had focused on King’s life. He said it presents an opportunity for residents to hear firsthand from World War II veterans, who are dying at a rate of more than 600 a day, according to one federal count.
• The Conversation, a South Sound grass-roots group committed to social justice, will hold an interfaith service and program from 2:30-4:30 p.m. with a reception to follow. It will be held at Urban Grace-The Downtown Church, located at 902 Market St.
Dexter Gordon, professor of African-American Studies at University of Puget Sound, will return as keynote speaker. There will be theatrical performance, gospel singing, and drumming. An awards ceremony will recognize local residents for their leadership in social justice causes.
• Tacoma’s events begin with the unity breakfast at the University of Washington Tacoma at 8 a.m. at the William W. Philip Hall on campus, 1900 Commerce St.
The keynote speaker is Carolyn McKinstry, who survived the September 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., that killed four girls and marked a turning point in the civil rights movement.
The price to register before Monday is $15 for people ages 11 and older, and $5 for children 10 and younger. It’s $20 for all ages to register at the door Monday. Pre-registration is available online at www.tacoma.washington.edu/mlk.
• Bates Technical College students and staff and community members will begin their traditional march to the city celebration at 10 a.m. The marchers will gather at 9 a.m. for refreshments at Bates’ downtown campus on 11th Street and Yakima Avenue. A shuttle will return the marchers to the campus following the event.
• Tacoma’s big event runs from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, 1550 Broadway. The event is free, but visitors are encouraged to bring donations of non-perishable food for a food drive.
Clayborne Carson, executive director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, will be the keynote speaker.
Carson, who participated in the March on Washington, contributed to the initial design of the King memorial in the nation’s Capitol. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, selected Carson to edit and publish her husband’s papers.
• The University of Puget Sound’s celebration will occur from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Schneebeck Concert Hall on campus.
A free talk will be given by John Carlos, a U.S. Olympian whose Black Power salute with another athlete on the podium of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City garnered international attention. Carlos is a founding member of the Olympic Project for Human Rights.
Students, staff and faculty members will spend the day Monday volunteering to assist more than 15 organizations.Christian Hill: 253-274-7390 christian.hill@ thenewstribune.com @TNTchill