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A look at the life and vision of Martin Luther King Jr.

Students from the Ashland School District and Southern Oregon University, along with company members from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, will share words and songs inspired by the life and vision of Martin Luther King Jr. at an annual celebration for the slain civil rights leader to be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 19, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St.

King's leadership during the civil rights movement in the '50s and '60s inspired a transformation toward greater dignity, compassion and justice for all people. With the theme "Share the Dream: Live the Reality," the event also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, federal legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. 

Look for a variety of music and dance, including Rogue Valley Gospel Group, OSF's Samba do Coracao and poetry by Alexander Dang and Clementine Von Radics. SOU journalism professor D.L. Richardson will return this year to emcee the celebration.

Geneva Craig, chair of the Diversity Advisory Council of AARP Oregon and clinical program coordinator at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, will be the keynote speaker. Craig will share her personal experiences growing up in Selma, Ala., during the time of racial segregation. She was an active participant in the civil rights movement and heard King's addresses during his visits to Selma’s Brown Chapel and Green Street churches. She also will discuss the event's theme and King's words, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Donations of nonperishable food for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank will be accepted at the free event. Doors open at 11:30 a.m., and those who attend should arrive early, as the event reaches standing room only by noon.

A live stream of the event will be shown at Standing Stone Brewery, 101 Oak St., and also online at ashlandhome.us.

Immediately following the program, SOU's Black Student Union will lead a march to the Ashland Plaza, where King's famous speech, "I Have a Dream," will be broadcast and the Rogue World Ensemble will perform. 

The event is produced by community volunteers and sponsored by the Ashland School District, OSF, the city of Ashland, Jefferson Public Radio, SOU,  the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and Martolli's Pizza. The celebration is open to all ages. Sign language interpreters will be provided.

Medford's Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18, in the auditorium at North Medford High School, 1900 N. Keene Way Drive.

"The Time Is Always Right To Do What Is Right," a quote from King, will be the theme, and Marjorie Trueblood-Gamble, associate director of diversity and inclusion at SOU, will be the keynote speaker.

The annual "I Have a Dream Award" will be presented to the Center for Nonprofit Legal Services — an organization that provides crisis civil legal assistance to low-income and elderly residents of Jackson County — and Peace House in Ashland.

There will be live entertainment by Ashland Danceworks, Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre, singers and guitarists Frankie Hernandez and Gene Burnett, and poet T-Poe Varnado. Students from Abraham Lincoln Elementary School will present a tribute to King. DJ Gemineye from KISS 107.5 will emcee the program.

"1,000 Shades of Color" — a project creating a portrait of ethnicity in Southern Oregon — will be displayed at the event. 

A crowd watches the 2014 Martin Luther King Day Celebration in Ashland. Photo courtesy of Jenny Graham