Tacoma celebrates the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast

  • Cheryl Brown Henderson

  • Carlos Muňoz

On Jan. 20, all across the country people will be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – a time to look back on what we’ve learned from history and how we’re keeping King’s dream alive as we enter 2014. Here in Tacoma there are several events scheduled that the public is invited to attend.


Tacoma's 26th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration takes place on Monday, Jan. 20 at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center (1500 Broadway). Doors will open at 10 a.m. and the event will start at 11 a.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring donations of non-perishable food items for the MLK Food Drive benefitting the Allen AME Church.

"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – at the age of 35 – was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his nonviolent, lifelong campaign for civil rights and social justice," said committee chairwoman Roslyn Smith. "And Tacoma's signature event this year, 'Youth Continuing the Legacy,' seeks to build upon his legacy of hope."

At this event, Human Rights Champion Award recipients Mark Martinez, Tom McCarthy, Laurie Davenport and Stella Haioulani will be recognized for their public service.

Eric Boles will be this year's keynote speaker. Boles – a Tacoma resident and former National Football League player with the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers – is president of The Gamechangers, Inc. a training and consulting company whose leadership, team and personal development processes are used by a number of globally recognized companies.

The South Sound MLK Mass Choir will feature a youth component this year and perform under the direction of Tacoma City Council Member Victoria Woodards. There will also be performances by Bob Williams of Living Voices, who will take event attendees through the experiences of a student activist from Mississippi joining the struggle for civil rights; Tacoma Poet Laureate Lucas Smiraldo; Pacific Lutheran University’s step team, Lute Nation; and Lincoln High School's drumline.

In addition to free holiday on-street parking and free parking at Freighthouse Square (2501 E. ‘D’ St.), which is easily accessible via Link light rail from the Convention Center stop located directly in front of the event venue, there will also be signage and personnel directing event attendees to designated complimentary parking stalls that will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis at the following locations:

  • Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center (1500 Broadway)

  • Pacific Plaza Garage (1125 Commerce St.)

  • Park Plaza North (923 Commerce St.)

Additional information is available at http://www.cityoftacoma.org/mlk.


The 8th Annual MLK Unity Breakfast will be held on Jan. 20 to recognize and celebrate King’s legacy and his historic civic leadership that inspired a nation to strive for equality. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that declared "separate but equal" unconstitutional and began the integration of the public school system, forever changing the educational landscape in America. This gathering honors the message of Dr. King and the progress he continues to inspire.

To recognize this important event in the civil rights movement, the landmark Supreme Court decision that desegregated public education, the organizing committee has invited Cheryl Brown Henderson to give the keynote address. Henderson is one of the three daughters of the late Rev. Oliver L. Brown, who, along with 12 other parents led by the NAACP, filed a lawsuit against the local Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas, on behalf of their children in the historic case Brown vs. Board of Education. Upon appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the case became the lead among five other legal challenges. Oliver Brown died in 1961 before knowing the impact his case would have on the country. Henderson has an extensive background in education, business and civic leadership.

The Unity Breakfast was established by the Black Student Union to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, and inspire members of the campus community to continue to work to make his vision of an equitable society a reality. The program recognizes students, faculty and community members for outstanding service to the community through the Dream Awards, which are presented during the program. The breakfast is planned with an inclusion of area youth and strives to provide opportunities for service and reflection through the Week of Service events. 

The breakfast will also feature performances by local Gospel Group, Jerusalem's Gate, Kellie Richardson (renowned local spoken word artist/poet) and UW student talent. 

This year's breakfast is cosponsored by the Division of Student and Enrollment Services and the Black Student Union. It will be held at William W. Philip Hall on the campus of University of Washington-Tacoma, 1918 Pacific Ave., starting at 8 a.m. To register, visit http://www.tacoma.uw.edu/mlk.


Carlos Muñoz, pioneering leader of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, scholar and writer, political activist, and the recipient of numerous honors for his human rights work, will be the keynote speaker at University of Puget Sound on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Everyone is invited to the free talk, titled “Victory is in the Struggle,” that will be part of a public celebration starting at 6:30 p.m. in Schneebeck Concert Hall on campus. The evening will include messages from leading Puget Sound campus members and gospel music by Navele & Friends.

Muñoz, professor emeritus in the Department of Ethnic Studies at University of California, Berkeley, set the pace for the rest of the country on Latino and Chicano issues as a young man, when he became founding chair of the first Chicano Studies department in the nation, at California State University, Los Angeles, in 1968.

The son of poor, working-class Mexican immigrants, he pioneered the creation of curricula in Chicano/Latino and ethnic studies, and won wide acclaim for his award-winning book “Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement,” which became the classic work on the origins of the movement.

As a boy in El Paso, Texas, Muñoz was urged by his father to simply finish high school, so he could make his way in the world. He did graduate from high school – but the racism and segregation of the East Los Angeles barrio schools propelled him to take up student activism during the 1960s. In 1968, as president of the United Mexican American Students, he co-organized a nonviolent protest that led to thousands of high school students walking out of classes.

The young man subsequently imprisoned for this early role in the emerging Chicano Civil Rights Movement is today known internationally as a political scientist, historian, journalist and public intellectual.

“What I have learned in my lifetime is that struggle is life and life is struggle,” Muñoz told Latino and Chicano graduating students at University of California, Berkeley, in 2006. “But most important, that victory is in the struggle.”

A leading organizer of various multiracial coalitions, including the Rainbow Coalition, Muñoz has taken on roles as diverse as advising the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign and advocating for the anti-war movement. He has been vociferous in defending the rights of undocumented workers in America and served as a member of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, among many similar roles.

Muñoz has appeared on NBC, CNN, ABC, CBC, national public television and radio, and Univision and Telemundo. His newspaper columns are syndicated nationally. In 1996 he received the University of Michigan’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chávez and Rosa Parks fellowship. Other recognitions have included honors from the American Political Science Association; Harvard Graduate School of Education; the National Black Student Union Conference; and from organizers of a traveling national exhibition, The Long Walk to Freedom, that honored 12 “civil rights activists who accomplished extraordinary deeds that changed the face of the nation and gave birth to the modern Civil Rights Movement.”


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