The concerns that continue to trouble the nation — namely, racial inequality — will once more become the subject of discussion, dramatic presentation and song during the local observances of Martin Luther King day.
The city of Davis’ annual celebration will get underway 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Varsity Theatre, 616 Second St. in downtown Davis. Admission is free for the all-ages event, which is sponsored by the Human Relations Commission
Monday will mark 19 years of the city sponsoring the memorialization of the slain civil rights leader. It has migrated from its origination in Central Park, under the Davis Farmer’s Market pavilion.
“Each year we try to do something a little bit different,” said Deputy City Manager Kelly Stachowicz. “We have some of the elements that we have kept the same over the years — stuff that people seem to enjoy and are meaningful.”
Over the years, a constant in the ceremony has been hosting a keynote speaker. This year’s speech will come from Bay Area local Sujatha Baliga, whose area of expertise is in restorative justice.
“Simply put, it’s a way for people to deal with disagreements,” Stachowicz said. “She focuses a lot on that, and really wants to tie in how restorative justice is letting us move toward Martin Luther King’s dream.”
As for the new, the Davis Citizen’s AD-Hoc Committee have created a performance that will debut after Baliga’s talk. The short dramatic presentation is titled “Breaking the Silence, Again.”
It will feature — among many things — an enactment of activists battling the apathy of everyday citizens, a poem recital and an ongoing multimedia presentation of King at different periods in his life.
One of the organizers of the show, Diane Evans, said while King’s legacy is an ever-present theme, it is also intended to continue the conversation started at last month’s “Breaking the Silence of Racism” community workshop.
“The message is collaboration, which is what we need for our country to change,” Evans said. “And the goal is really to activate the spirit of Martin Luther King. Peoples’ voices need to be heard.”
The act will be followed by a discussion on the country’s high rates of incarceration of people of color, particularly African-American males. A community panel will comment on these issues and provide potential solutions.
Last year was the first time a panel was held at the annual celebration, Stachowicz said, and it is making a return due to its positive reception.
“People really were responsive to it,” she said. “We had a group … talking about issues of discrimination and things that they’ve faced. I think it was eye-opening for some and an affirmation for others.
“We hope that the panel will once more cause people to think: ‘OK, here’s where we are; where do we go from here?’ ”
Attendees will then hear folk music from the Freedom Singers, who protested for civil liberties in Alabama during the ’60s. The event concludes around noon with the ceremonial Freedom March through downtown Davis.
“We aim for a mix of making people think, and giving people hope that we’re making progress toward achieving the dream — as Martin Luther King would see it,” Stachowicz said.
Later that night, the Free Range Singers and the Unitarian Universalist Sparks Choir will harmonize for King’s day. This event, independent of the city’s celebration, begins at 7 p.m. in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, 27074 Patwin Road.