Long a memorable event on the Westside, the annual celebration of the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be especially memorable this year as the civil rights leader’s oldest daughter will be the keynote speaker and the celebration will end with the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. auditorium in the new Santa Monica Main Public Library.
Yolanda King will speak at the celebration on Monday, January 16, at the SGI (Soka Gakai International) Auditorium, 525 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. She will be introduced by Dr. Lawrence Edward Carter Sr., the first dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College in Atlanta and the founder of the Gandhi Institute for Reconciliation.
The celebration, which has become one of the largest events of its kind in Southern California, will end with a three-block march to the dedication of the library’s auditorium.
The celebration will begin at 9 a.m., and the dedication will be held at noon.
The event is being coordinated by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition, a nonprofit coalition whose missions are consistent with King’s legacy, and is co-sponsored by Santa Monica College, the City of Santa Monica, and the SMC Associates.
The interfaith program will also include inspirational readings, music, and presentations of scholarships.
Its theme is “State of the Union: A Time for Love, Not Hate; for Understanding, Not Anger; for Peace, Not War.”
Yolanda King is founder and CEO of Higher Ground Productions, an organization that teaches people to celebrate diversity and embrace unity. She is a seasoned speaker and actor who has performed or lectured in 49 of the 50 states, as well as in Europe, Africa and Asia for educational, business, religious and civic organizations.
She has also written and collaborated on three books, Open My Eyes, Open My Soul and Embracing Your Power in 30 Days.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree with honors from Smith College, King took her master’s in theater from New York University and directed and performed in productions in that area. As an actor, she has appeared in a number of films, playing Rosa Parks in the NBC-TV movie King, Dr. Betty Shabazz in the film Death of a Prophet, and Medgar Evers’ daughter Reena in Ghosts of Mississippi.The recipient of many honors, she serves on the boards of many organizations dedicated to missions such as social change, justice and peace.