We’re moving on up, to the east side, to that Deluxe Apartment in the Sky. For those in their 50s you’ll remember that was the theme song for the sitcom for The Jefferson’s George and Wizzy. That’s how we – the members of Mesa Martin Luther King Jr. Committee – are feeling now.
Our first Mesa MLK celebration started in 1987 as 30 of us gathered in the home of a member to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with prayers, poetry, praise and potluck. The following year our celebration grew somewhat as maybe 80 strong moved to a small conference room at the Mesa Convention Center. Year after year our Mesa celebration grew as we added an MLK breakfast inviting the mayor and city council members and other East Valley political figures to join us to celebrate the MLK holiday in Mesa.
Although we met yearly on this national holiday, our plates were half full. Mesa did not observe the MLK holiday. Even without an official holiday, the celebration continued to expand to include a march and a festival. In 1991 a group called Concerned Citizens of Mesa began work to establish the holiday that encountered much opposition. The initiative was defeated in 1992 at the ballot box. But thanks to the passion and commitment of the leaders, the community came together to realize the importance of Dr. King’s legacy and the need to officially celebrate this holiday in the Mesa community. Finally in November 1996 the voters of Mesa established a citywide holiday. The victory did not come without challenges… but the victory came.
Today the committee continues to coordinate the celebration that’s enjoyed by thousands of Mesa residents and has grown to include citizens across many cities in Arizona. We proudly embrace the theme that represents that unity, “Many Faces, One Community.”
The fight for a holiday was never about a day off, but was about a day to remember, reflect, celebrate, recognize and serve others. The Mesa Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee events are designed to bring residents together for a weekend of remembering a man who believed in God, non-violence and loving others. The MLK Committee is proud to announce we will kick off our annual celebratory list of events with a Red Carpet Awards Gala at the Mesa Arts Center on Saturday, Jan. 17, featuring Grammy-nominated jazz artist Jonathan Butler. Red carpet reception is 5 p.m., and the awards gala at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at www.Mesamlk.org.
On Monday, Jan 19, the MLK parade starts at 11 a.m. in downtown Mesa followed by the festival at noon-4 p.m. and our last event, the MLK Basketball Classic at ASU Wells Fargo Arena.
Please join us for a day of celebration and reflection. The committee is asking for everyone – if they can – to bring peanut butter and jelly to all the events so that we can provide food to the food bank in the spirit of Dr. King.
Editor’s note: For more information, go to www.mesamlk.org or call John Goodie of the Mesa Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee at 480-329-3116. The above was in the Jan. 14, 2015, issue of the East Mesa Independent newspaper.
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