The city’s 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration and a private fundraiser for the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund Award dinner will focus on the messages and eloquence of the late civil rights leader.
According to the city, the free MLK celebration will take place at 11 a.m. Monday at the Varsity Theatre, 616 Second St. It’s set to feature a keynote speech from Dana Vickers Shelley, director of public affairs for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
According to a statement from the city, Shelley is working with community audiences to inform and engage on policy that seeks to find justice for the most vulnerable members of society.
Shelley’s past accomplishments include a post as deputy press secretary to Clinton-era U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown. She also was director of strategic communications at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where she was involved in a bid to improve outcomes for children in child welfare and juvenile systems who were affected by racial disparity.
Combined with Shelley’s speech, a panel of community members will discuss access to education for minority youths. Winfred Robertson, superintendent of the Davis Joint Unified School District, will be part of the panel.
In addition to the panel discussion, Davisite Dick Holdstock and the Davis Freedom Singers will play a musical interlude of classic peace and freedom songs. Following the songs, the singers will lead locals on a march through downtown Davis. The march will complete the free event.
Later that evening, the 11th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund award dinner will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the St. James Community Center, 1275 B St.
Two high school students, Amari Lee of Davis High School and Robia Amjad of Pioneer High, won scholarships, and Mary Anne Kirsch of Davis will be presented with the Nelson Mandela World Peace Award.
The event helps worthy students get a quality education through raising funds to help with their college expenses. Tickets are $50 per person.
If that’s not enough reason to get a ticket, actor Felix Justice might be. Justice will be taking on the role of King to give the civil rights leader’s philosophical basis for nonviolent resistance to oppression.
“I admire his eloquence and simplicity,” Justice said of King.
The San Francisco- and New York-trained actor grew up in South Carolina and was influenced by the AME church. But as he tells it, when he was in Los Angeles in 1960, he saw King speak.
“There was that much difference (between the preaching in the AME church and King’s preaching) I was greatly moved at the time.”
Together with the actor Danny Glover, Justice has toured an estimated 250 college campuses performing a play about King and poet Langston Hughes, and also engaging in discussion.
Although places change — and they can be very different from appearance to appearance — Justice said there has been a constant through each performance.
“We have been received enthusiastically wherever we’ve gone,” he said.
To purchase advance tickets, mail checks payable to MLKSF, to MLKSF, P.O. Box 1555, Davis CA 95617-1555. Tickets may be reserved at will-call by calling 530-753-6148.
— Reach Dave Ryan at 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews