In an effort to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. on the upcoming holiday, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition invites local residents to its celebration featuring New Roads School graduate and current Harvard University student Amanda Gorman.

Gorman will serve as the Keynote Speaker at the coalition’s 35th annual celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is set to begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 20.

Occurring at the SGI-USA World Peace Ikeda Auditorium located at 525 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, this year’s theme is very timely, according to event organizers, who said the theme: “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy” was taken from a speech orated by Dr. King himself.

Additionally, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition’s celebration will include inspirational readings, music and a special dance performance by the Mar Vista Gardens Boys and Girls Club Dance Squad. The program is expected to also feature the presentation of education awards to local students as well as the coalition’s Annual Community Light Award to Ruby House 1-6 of Chosen Gospel Recovery Inc.

About Amanda Gorman

Heralded as “the next great figure in American poetry,” the event’s keynote speaker, Gorman, made history in 2017 at age 21 by being named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States.

Gorman was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended New Roads School in Santa Monica before graduating and continuing her education at Harvard University, where she is a rising senior at the top of her class studying Sociology.

At age 16, Gorman served as a youth delegate to the United Nations and the executive director of a non-profit that promotes literacy. She has advocated for racial equality, climate action and LGBTQ rights.

The coalition’s free event is expected to be one of the largest and most diverse celebrations of its kind in Southern California, according to event organizers, but there are a number of other celebrations happening in the area on, or around, the same day.

Other MLK Day Events

Attendees of Monday’s coalition’s celebration are invited to a nearby Community Involvement Fair, which will immediately follow the celebration and offer refreshments and informational displays hosted by a variety of community organizations. The Community Involvement Fair will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon Monday, Jan. 20, at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows located at 101 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica.

The Westside Interfaith Prayer Breakfast on Friday, Jan. 17 is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. to 9 am at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, which is located at 1343 Ocean Park in Santa Monica. Tickets are $25 per person and checks should be made payable to: “Mt. Olive Lutheran Church.” Residents in need of more information can call 310-452-1116 or email

The Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra will host its annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Concert featuring Music Director and Conductor Guido Lamell beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 18 at the SGI-USA World Peace Ikeda Auditorium located at 525 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica.

The Committee for Racial Justice will hold an event on Sunday, January 5.

As the CRJ looks ahead to January celebrations of MLK day, organizers said questions come to mind. 51 years after his death, Dr. Martin Luther King has streets, schools, hospitals and even a national holiday named after him. He has become one of the most popular icons in American history. But is the popular Dr. King the real Dr. King—or is the popular Dr. King a comfortable counterfeit that serves all too often to lull the public into complacent satisfaction with the racial and socio-economic status quo? Thelma Terry Center in Virginia Avenue Park, 2200 Virginia Ave 6 p.m.

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