The 35th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration was held on January 20 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, highlighting Milwaukee’s youth who interpreted Dr. King’s Civil Rights efforts through art, speeches, and writing contests.

The only cities that have the proud tradition to honor Dr. King’s Birthday annually since 1984 are Atlanta and Milwaukee. The theme for the 2019 program was “Celebrating the Legacy for 35 Years.”

One of the most important events of the civil rights movement took place on August 28, 1963: the March on Washington. More than 200,000 people gathered in DC for a peaceful march, with the main purpose of forcing civil rights legislation and establishing job equality for everyone.

It turned out to be a pivotal moment in the cause. Dr. King delivering his “I Have A Dream” speech, which was also experienced by TV and radio audiences around the country.

Dr. King’s birthday was recognized as a federal holiday and has been celebrated on the third Monday of January since President Ronald Reagan signed the bill in 1983. The only other American to earn this honor has been George Washington.

The Marcus Center hosted this year’s Martin Luther King Day celebration as it has every year since 1984.

“We are a community performing arts center, so when we open our doors, we open them to all of Milwaukee. And as Milwaukee becomes more richly diverse in its population, we want to continue to recognize that and program for that,” said Paul Mathews, president and CEO of the Marcus Center. “And the fact that Dr. King’s legacy continues on, and is really of importance to people of all races and cultures, is another reason why I think it continues here in Milwaukee,”

Students also offered their salute to Dr. King’s social impact with music, dance, and song. Joining the Majestic Community Choir, the Hmong American Friendship Association Girls and the Milwaukee Flyers Tumbling Team returned this year to perform for the audience.

“For a student attending high school, one of the most terrifying thoughts that could come to mind is experiencing a school shooting. What is meant to be a safe environment for growth and prosperity transforms into a war zone. Routine practice drills to prepare for these catastrophic situations do little to ease the mind. The worst part about these paralyzing nightmares is the high likelihood of them becoming a reality. From Columbine, to Sandy Hook, to Parkland; the list of school shootings seems to never stop growing. The pervasiveness of gun violence has inspired survivor students to organize and lead the March for Our Lives which took place across America. This demonstration of young and fervent activism echoes Martin Luther King, Jr. and the great legacy he left behind: to stand against violence of any sort and to, instead, spread peace, love, and harmony.” – Amany Khreis, Grade 11, Salam School

“By starting within our own communities, families, and schools we can honor Dr. King’s legacy by bringing justice and giving a voice to those who cannot stand up for themselves. Our world today has turned into a cruel place because people have forgotten to look out for each other, to embrace each others differences, and to love one another for who we truly are as individuals.” – Rida Aftab, Grade 7, Salam School