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MailTribune.com
  • Martin Luther King Jr.

    Medford celebrates the late civil rights leader's birthday
  • Sunday, Jan. 20 — Medford's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration will promote the ideas of world peace and an inclusive community conceived by the prominent leader in the 1960s civil rights movement.
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  • Medford's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration will promote the ideas of world peace and inclusive community conceived by the African-American civil rights movement's prominent leader.
    KOBI-TV anchorman Larry Miller will emcee the 11th annual event, set for 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, in the auditorium at Central Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale Ave.
    The keynote address, "Walking with Dr. King," will be presented by Maurice Woodard of Medford. Woodard is a former field staff worker for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — an African-American civil rights organization — who marched with King in the '60s.
    The SCLC was committed to desegregation and organized sit-ins, boycotts and marches to bring attention to inequalities of American societies.
    "I marched with Dr. King in 1963 in the 'March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom' and in all three of the marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., including Bloody Sunday. I also attended the Poor People's Campaign," Woodard said.
    The 1968 campaign was organized by King and the SCLC and carried out in the wake of his assassination.
    As a sophomore in high school, Woodard helped organize the Interracial Students for Action in Chicago, which later formed Students for a Democratic Society.
    Woodard played guitar with the Freedom Singers, a choir that opened for King's speeches at civil rights rallies and marches, from age 17 to 24.
    "That's how I met Dr. King," Woodard says. "During this tribute, I want to recreate the mood of a civil rights rally by performing songs from the movement. Many of the musicians I have asked to play at the event embrace the values of Dr. King."
    Woodard was drafted into the military and served in Vietnam. Afterward, he earned a doctorate in religious studies and worked as a Baptist pastor for 27 years.
    The event will kick off with an invocation by Native American Elder Nick Hall on drum and Tom Smith on flute, and there will be a proclamation by Mayor Gary Wheeler.
    The winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. poster will be announced. Art students from North and South Medford high schools, Cascade Christian and St. Mary's have participated. In addition, this year's "I Have a Dream Award" will be presented to local activist and Oregon Action organizer Rich Rohde.
    Live music will be provided by songwriters Gene Burnett, Phoenix Sigalove and Frankie Hernandez. Living on Dreams Band with Kent Heyward will perform a blend of jazz by Miles Davis, Cole Porter, Weather Report and others. Lavender Blue will perform covers of rock, R&B and country hits from the '60s through today.
    There will be a performance by Samoan dance troupe Peteli Praise and a reading by poet T-Poe.
    Admission is free.
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