Santa Monica College (SMC) and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition have announced that Dr. Tommie C. Smith, the acclaimed gold medalist in the 200-meter sprint at the Games of the XIX Olympiad in Mexico City, will be the keynote speaker at the birthday celebration for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The celebration will be held on Monday, January 15, at the SGI-USA World Peace Ikeda Auditorium, 525 Wilshire Blvd.

The free event – one of the largest and most diverse celebrations of its kind in Southern California – is scheduled for 9 a.m. The event is presented by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition, a nonprofit coalition whose mission is consistent with King’s legacy. Event co-sponsors are the City of Santa Monica, SGI-USA, Santa Monica College, the SMC Associates (, the RAND Corporation, CityTV-Santa Monica, Santa Monica Library, the Human Relations Council, and a variety of other organizations, individuals, and corporate contributors.

This year’s celebration marks the event’s 33rd anniversary and embraces the theme “Never Lose Hope: Unity Wins.” The multi-ethnic, interfaith program will include inspirational readings, speakers, music, and Education Awards. Immediately following the program, a Community Involvement Fair offering refreshments and informational displays by a variety of community organizations will be held nearby at the Grand Pavilion of St. Monica’s Church, 701 California Ave., Santa Monica. Attendees are invited to bring along a new pair of socks to donate to The People Concern (

Dr. Smith, who retired in 2005 after 27 years as a faculty member at SMC, is the only man in the history of track and field to hold 11 world records simultaneously. In 1968, he stood wearing his gold medal on the Olympic victory platform and – in a historic stand for black power, liberation, and solidarity – raised a clenched fist covered in a black leather glove. His courageous gesture propelled him into yet another spotlight as a human rights spokesperson, activist, and symbol of African American pride. Dr. Smith received an honorary doctorate degree (LHD) from San Jose State University in 2005, and is also the recipient of numerous awards from colleges, universities, numerous Halls of Fame, and municipal governments in both the United States and abroad. He is also included in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

For more information about these and other related special events, please call (818) 207-3934 or (310) 434-4100.