Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday celebrated in Auburn

Community event spreads message of tolerance
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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The community is invited to attend a celebration Sunday, Jan. 15, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalists have partnered with PlacerArts for the event, titled “Beyond Dreaming … Why we can’t Wait.” Poets, artists, musicians and more will gather to spread the message of the civil rights activist, who was shot and killed in 1968. He would have turned 82 on Jan. 15.

The celebration begins at 4 p.m. at the church, where there will be a program of music, poetry and readings. Native American flute group Loping Wolf will perform, and members of Auburn’s Hip Hop Congress have prepared spoken-word pieces about the life and dreams of King. Other participants include musicians Annie Lindsay and Patricia Leftridge, along with Sacramento poet Jovi Radtke. The Rev. Janice Steele and Pat Gill from the Imani Community Church in Sacramento will provide music as well.

“Our Unitarian Universalist faith calls us to really work for more justice and more peace for more people, and we are quite aware of the different ways in which humanity divides from each other instead of unites us,” said the Rev. Wendy Bartel. “And so our faith, like many other faiths, calls us to do more peace and more uniting, and to find ways to be more compassionate and understanding of one another.”

The celebration is multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-generational. It is free and open to the public.

“I really like to see the variety of families who come to the event annually,” said Angela Tahti, executive director of PlacerArts. “This is a continuing issue for our country – something to celebrate, something to think about and lots still to work on.”

Joseph Torres, 17, and Sean Roy, 19, are both Auburn residents and members of the Hip Hop Congress. They will perform original pieces they composed for the King celebration.

“He changed a lot, in my opinion,” Joseph said. “He brought the blacks and whites together, he fought against racism, and I believe that is brave.”

Roy penned “Colors: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” for the event. It’s a spoken-word piece, meaning it combines poetry, breath control and hip-hop.

“I studied Martin Luther King in high school, and I learned more about him, but I would much rather do what I’m doing now,” Ray said. “I wrote a very long poem, more of about the foundation of Dr. King’s words and what he has done.”

The event culminates with a candle-light procession from the church to The Arts Building downtown, where there will be a closing circle and birthday cake provided by the local chapter of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom. The walk is a tribute to the civil rights walks of the 1960s, and attendees are asked to bring candles and/or flashlights. Organizers will also collect donations of non-perishable food items for the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet.

“We really want this event to demonstrate what it is that we’re striving for,” Bartel said. “The event itself is collaborative. The event is allowing many voices to rise and shine. The event itself is an example of how we can manifest allowing as many voices as we can to be part of the conversation and share their gift.”

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‘Beyond Dreaming … Why we can’t Wait’

What: Community celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

When: Sunday, Jan. 15.

Where: Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalists, 190 Finley St., Auburn

Schedule: 4-5:15 p.m. program of music, poetry, readings and song followed by a walking vigil to The Arts Building, 808 Lincoln Way, Auburn, for celebration cake and beverages.

Cost: Free. Please bring candles or flashlights for the vigil and a non-perishable food item to donate to the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet

Information: (530) 823-0953