MLK Day observances to be held in Toledo, Columbus, & Cleveland
By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day falls on Monday, Jan 19th this year—and the holiday means a lot more than just a day off for government and bank workers in Toledo, Columbus, and Cleveland.
The 14th annual observance of Toledo’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Celebration will be an observance of Dr. King’s life and legacy, to be held at 9 a.m. at the University of Toledo's Savage Arena. A community luncheon will follow the event prepared by We Are Ribs.
“You can expect a lot of music, a lot of celebration, a strong showing of unity, diversity, and service to our community,” said Linda Alvarado-Arce, executive director of Toledo's Board of Community Relations. “There's a big push that this is not just a one-day event. It's a year-round event. So we've changed quite a lot to make it more inclusive and something the community really wanted.”
Former Marine and Toledo Public Schools board member Robert Torres will serve as the keynote speaker. He was selected, in part, because of his longstanding service to the youth of the community. Torres is believed to be the first local Latino to serve as the keynote speaker for the Unity Day event. Tony Rios has served as an emcee in recent years.
Toledo’s Board of Community Relations is organizing the event for the first time in conjunction with several UT organizations. There will no longer be floor seating for elected officials and other dignitaries. Instead, Ms. Alvarado-Arce stated they will be expected to sit among the crowd in the stands, promoting a more unified audience, which has numbered in past years between 1,500 and 5,000 in attendance.
“Everyone will be sitting together at the Unity event,” she emphasized. “That way we all come together. We're still going to recognize everyone. It will just be more interactive.”
WTOL news anchor Jerry Anderson and Rhonda Sewell, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library media relations coordinator, will serve as emcees. Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins and Dr. Nagi Naganathan, UT interim president, will address the gathering as well. The theme for this year's observance is “What are YOU doing for others?”
Four generations will also speak-- an elementary-age student, a high school student, a college student, and a senior citizen-- on how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has impacted each of their lives, along with what service, diversity, and unity mean to them.
There will be a procession of international flags reflecting Toledo's diversity. A steel drum corps from the Toledo School for the Arts will play during the procession, which will be accompanied by student artwork from each of the countries represented by the flags.
The Scott High School band and the Woodward High School choir each will perform. Fusion, described as a celebratory band, will also play during the event. Scholarships will be awarded.
“It's going to be a very youth-friendly, happy event,” said Ms. Alvarado-Arce. “It's going to be a bit different and add energy to the event.”
Attendees can sign up at the event through the United Way of Greater Toledo to be a community volunteer throughout the year. Major sponsors include ProMedica and its sister agency Paramount, Black and Veatch, UT, LMHA, the Toledo Zoo, and various media outlets including La Prensa.
Columbus and Cleveland
Columbus will host its 30th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Breakfast, 10 a.m., at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, 400 N. High St. Tickets, priced at $40 each, must be ordered in advance through the event website, www.MLKjrBreakfast.com. Specially priced hotel reservations also can be made at the Hyatt Regency at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, 350 N. High St.
Dr. Julius Scruggs, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., will serve as the keynote speaker at the Columbus breakfast event. Dr. Scruggs has served in that role for five years and has given voice and focus to the influence and spirituality of an estimated seven million members of the nation's largest predominantly African-American denomination.
The Cleveland Public Library’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch, 1962 Stokes Blvd., will host the 30th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Program on Jan. 19th at 1 p.m. (doors open at noon). The keynote speaker is Pastor Richard M. Gibson of the Elizabeth Baptist Church in Cleveland. A community reception follows the program. For additional information call 216-623-7018 or go to www.clp.org