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ASHLAND, Ore. — With Martin Luther King Jr. Day rapidly approaching, several groups in Southern Oregon announced that they planned to host events in honor of the civil rights icon.
After Medford's celebration on Sunday, Ashland's event was first to happen on Monday afternoon — the day named in Martin Luther King Jr.'s honor.
For more than 30 years, the city of Ashland has celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a special event held in his honor. The latest tribute was held on Monday, January 20 at the Historic Ashland Armory.
"Our 2020 theme is 'In the Spirit of Freedom Summer,'" MLK event organizers said in a statement preceding the event.
That theme was paired with a quote from Dr. King himself:
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he [or they] must take it because his [or their] conscience tells him [or them] it is right.” The quote comes from the 'A Proper Sense Of Priorities Speech' given on February 6, 1968, in Washington, D.C.
Nataki Garrett, artistic director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) was keynote speaker for the celebration this year.
“Any opportunity I have to share my reverence for Dr. King and my love for this holiday," Garrett said. "My father was one of the people that fought for it to become a holiday, so I’m very tied to this holiday and the celebration of Dr. King.”
After the celebration in the Armory, the AHS and SOU Black Student Unions led people in a march to the plaza to listen to a recording of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“I think from the moment you can talk, you should know how we got to this point — so that you can continue to move us forward like generations will after me,” Garrett said.
Meanwhile, the Ashland Emergency Food Bank has an ongoing food drive that ends on Martin Luther King Day. The food bank is particularly looking for healthy non-perishable food items, reusable grocery bags or children’s books.
There are donation bins at several locations, including the North Mountain Park Nature Center, Ashland Library, Shop 'n Kart, YMCA, and The Grove.
"Nearly 30,000 people in Jackson County are considered food insecure, 10,000 of whom are children," said Laurel Cheever, an AmeriCorps service member and organizer of the drive. "These families did not know where their next meal would come from or they went hungry. USDA data shows that about one in seven Oregonians suffered from food insecurity between 2014 and 2016."
On Sunday — the day before MLK Day itself — there was an event held at the Medford School District Auditorium on Oakdale Avenue, featuring emcee Vance Beach and keynote speaker Gina Duqenne.
The event promised to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King: "through song, speeches and more, commit to the work still to be done."
In Grants Pass there will be an MLK Day celebration on Monday evening at the Bethany Presbyterian Church from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
"You're invited to celebrate and remember the legacy and vision of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," organizers said. "This celebration will include live music from the Songbird Trio, The Rogue Singers, and other local musicians. In addition to music there will be poetry, speakers, singing, and a panel discussion. Light refreshments will also be provided."
There will be a panel discussion themed around "Breaking Down Barriers," which will be moderated by the Rev. Ernestein Flemister of St. Luke's Presbyterian Church.
This event is a partnership between Newman United Methodist Church, Bethany Presbyterian Church, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, and Rogue Community College. This event is free and open to the public.