Keeping the Dream Alive

Local events honoring MLK start Saturday

Although America will be celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 20, local schools and organizations will be marking the occasion with events leading up to the national holiday.

One of a number of events sponsored by the Pasadena Martin Luther King Community Coalition begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Jackie Robinson Center, 1020 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, beginning with the program “Rekindling the Light of Peace,” which is being hosted by the city Human Relations Commission and features music and poetry readings.

The MLK Community Coalition was started in 1985 at a meeting convened at Scott United Methodist Church which brought together activists to address some of the spiritual, educational, economic, employment and health problems facing the community. Over the past 26 years, the coalition has sponsored the Martin Luther King Essay Contest, encouraging students in the Pasadena Unified School District and local private schools to write about different aspects of King’s legacy.

The coalition introduced the art contest in 2003 to include the growing pool of talented student visual artists. Since then, the combined entries from both the essay and art contests have numbered well into the thousands. To date, more than 20,000 students have entered the essay contest and 2,585 young visual artists have submitted entries for the art contest

All students who enter the contests receive certificates for their participation. Also, thousands of dollars have been awarded to students from elementary, middle, and high schools — all monetary awards coming from donations by individuals and local organizations.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, another MLK Community Coalition event, this one at Longfellow Elementary School, 1065 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena, features visual arts projects by local students which will be on display in an event that also includes essay readings by winners and finalists.

The coalition’s “A Day On, Not Off” event will be held from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 18, at John Muir High School, with student volunteers beautifying the campus. Volunteers plant flowers and grass, clean up, and help with maintenance tasks. Lunch is included.

At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, Metropolitan Baptist Church, 2283 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena will hold an interdenominational ministerial service in King’s honor.

Finally, at 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 20, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Celebration will be held in Robinson Park All Purpose Room, 1081 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena. The event starts with a continental breakfast.

King visited Pasadena three times, speaking at Caltech in 1958 and Friendship Baptist Church twice. In one of those visits in 1960, his sermon, “The Three Dimensions of a Meaningful Life,” addressed topics ranging from his trip to India and the Montgomery bus boycotts to the foundations of a meaningful life.

When he returned to Pasadena in 1965, he was the height of his popularity and the civil rights movement was growing. By this time, King was a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Time magazine’s Man of the Year and had delivered his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.”

The crowd was so large that police had to set up a barricade around the church to protect the civil rights leader.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 by a lone gunman in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray was convicted of the murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. Ray died in 1998 at the age of 70 after serving 29 years of his sentence.

For more information on all of the events listed, contact the Martin Luther King Community Coalition visit