Ashland Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.

By Shannon Houston

Martin Luther King Celebration at the Ashland Aromory. (The Siskiyou/Kelsi Fasano)

Martin Luther King Celebration at the Ashland Armory. (The Siskiyou/Kelsi Fasano)

The city of Ashland honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a host of festivities on Monday, January 20, celebrating King’s work towards justice and racial equality in the United States in the 1950s and 60s.

Among other events throughout the day was the 26th annual celebration held at the Historic Ashland Armory on Oak St. This celebration included performances by musicians, dance groups, school groups and others along with a keynote address.

The event was hosted by master of ceremonies and former Southern Oregon University professor, D.L. Richardson, who has been involved with the annual celebration for multiple years.

“This is a day of celebration,” Richardson told the crowd.

As audience members filed into the armory a slideshow of pictures, video clips and audio snippets reflecting King’s impact played on screens to the sides of the stage. One portion showed the contrast between Ashland in 1924, with a photo of Ku Klux Klan members compared to Ashland today, showing a packed room looking to celebrate King’s life.

The celebration itself opened with a quotation from King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” including the words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Martin Luther King Celebration at the Ashland Aromory. (The Siskiyou/Kelsi Fasano)

Martin Luther King Celebration at the Ashland Armory. (The Siskiyou/Kelsi Fasano)

The keynote address was delivered by Kayse Jama, the executive director of the Center for Intercultural Organizing, based out of Portland. He spoke of his own experiences with the pursuit of social justice, urging the audience to realize that there is still work to be done to finish what King set out to accomplish.

“As you go back to your houses today I want you to think about one thing,” said Jama. “What can I do? What can I do as an individual?”

Jama, originally from Somalia, traveled through sixteen different countries before moving to Portland and becoming a social justice organizer.

“As a community we have to find our way back to the road of justice,” said Jama. He also urged the audience to live as if “every day is MLK day.”

Before and after Jama’s address, various groups performed pieces commemorating King through music, dance and poetry. These groups included Walker Elementary School, Rogue Valley Gospel Choir and Cater Renaissance Academy, among many others.

Those who could not be in attendance or who were turned away from the Armory after the venue had filled had the option of watching a livestream of the event at Standing Stone Brewery or at www.ashlandhome.us.

Martin Luther King Celebration at the Ashland Aromory. (The Siskiyou/Kelsi Fasano)

Martin Luther King Celebration at the Ashland Armory. (The Siskiyou/Kelsi Fasano)

After the celebration at the Armory a group marched to the downtown Ashland plaza to hear more music and listen to a broadcast of King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech.”

Later in the afternoon, SOU’s United Nations Club hosted an evening of song and presentation to continue honoring King in the Rogue River Room of Stevenson Union. The evening closed out with a tribute to King in the SOU Music Recital Hall with performances by Axiom Brass and readings of King’s speeches and letters by former poet laureate Lawson Inada.

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