Community leaders, local residents and members of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition gathered Monday for a celebration that sought to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and the many values he once fought for.

Complete with inspirational readings, award presentations and a local resource fair that allowed residents the opportunity to interact with various community-based organizations, many in attendance Monday described the event as a success.

The celebration began at the SGI-USA World Peace Ikeda Auditorium, where a packed auditorium full of seniors, newborns and every age in-between listened to former New Roads School graduate and current Harvard University student Amanda Gorman offer a few words of inspiration.

Heralded as “the next great figure in American poetry,” Gorman made history in 2017 at age 21 by being named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States, and during her speech Monday, the National Youth Poet Laureate discussed King’s ideals and challenged audience members to undertake three simple tasks that were inspired by the reverend himself.

“One task I call: ‘The challenge of now;’ the second I call: ‘Making democracy real;’ and the third one is ‘Give purpose to promise,” Gorman said in an interview during the event, where she described how she attempts to connect her poetry with the principles of Dr. King in an effort to teach.

“I think it’s important to celebrate the values of Dr. King because they’re timeless and transcend a lot of socio-political moments,” Gorman said. “Particularly because people tend to forget how much of a radical Dr. King was for his time, which I think has a particular residency for today because it means that what he said decades ago is in its own way still lightyears ahead of where we are today.”

Gorman added the event also served as a great homecoming since she was able to connect with family, fellow New Roads alumni and many others during the community resource fair that transpired at the Fairmont Hotel later on Monday morning.

While attendees enjoyed refreshments, food and swapped stories of personal interactions with Dr. King as they socialized with old friends and new acquaintances, former Santa Monica Mayor Nat Trives said, “We wanted people to come out and feel like there is hope for the world. And that’s exactly what happened.”

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