The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition will host the 37th annual birthday celebration for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Keynote speaker for the event will be Los Angeles Times columnist LZ Granderson.

The free event — one of the largest and most diverse celebrations of its kind in Southern California — will be held online at 9 a.m. on Monday, January 17. A link taking guests to the event will be posted at

The event is presented by The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition, a nonprofit coalition whose mission is consistent with Dr. King’s legacy. Event sponsors include the City of Santa Monica, SGI-USA, Santa Monica College Associates, Santa Monica College, Santa Monica/Westside Legacy Fund for Women and Girls, Rand Corporation, and Santa Monica Bay Area Human Relations Council, and a variety of other organizations, individuals, and corporate contributors.

This year’s celebration embraces the theme “The time is always right to do what is right.” The multi-ethnic, interfaith program will include inspirational remarks, music by The Linda Alvarez Trio, and spoken word by Get Lit – Words Ignite, an organization that will also receive a Community Light Award for its efforts “using poetry to increase literacy, empower youth, and inspire communities.” Additionally, the program will feature the presentation of education awards to local students and a Lifetime Achievement Award to longtime community activist La Verne Ross.

Due to increased COVID-related concerns and restrictions, the annual Community Involvement Fair and events screening at Virginia Avenue Park, have been canceled.

LZ Granderson is the host of the Life Out Loud audio podcast. He is also an Op-Ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times. He arrived in 2019 as The Times’ sports and culture columnist. Granderson is a political contributor for ABC News and previously co-hosted “Sedano and LZ” for ESPN-LA 710.

LZ was at ESPN for 17 years. He began his career as an editor for ESPN The Magazine, helping oversee its NBA and tennis coverage. He also co-created, produced, and served as host for several other programming initiatives that aired on ESPN3, including LZ’s Café, where he interviewed athletes and celebrities such as Andre 3000 and Dierks Bentley. As a senior writer, Granderson maintained a regular column for for a number of years and has served as a contributing commentator on Outside the Lines, Around the Horn, and SportsCenter. He has served as part of the network’s tennis team covering Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, counting Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal among the all-time greats he has interviewed. The unabashed women’s basketball fan broke the Sheryl Swoopes coming-out story in 2006 and reported on the SC Featured piece about Texas basketball center Imani McGee-Stafford, which won the Lone Star Emmy in 2015. Granderson was also a 2016-2918 co-host of SportsNation.

The award-winning journalist worked for several newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the South Bend Tribune, and the Grand Rapids Press, primarily covering sports, politics, education, and entertainment. In 2016, Granderson was inducted into the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Hall of Fame, and recently joined Marvel Studios’ digital team, co-anchoring red carpet coverage of the world premiere of Avengers: Infinity War.

His work has been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, and The Advocate frequently includes him as one of the 50 most influential LGBTQ+ voices in the media. His TED Talk on LGBTQ equality has more than 1.6 million views. In 2011, Granderson was named Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and his columns have been recognized by the National Association of Black Journalists, as well as the Online News Association.

In addition to the January 17 virtual celebration, the “Weekend of Celebrations” includes:

Thursday, January 13, at 6 p.m. UNFINISHED WORK – Virtual Program. “Advancing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Legacy of Racial Equity”

Online at Youth-oriented event hosted by New Roads School features young orators, filmmakers, musicians, and artists.

Friday, January 14, at 8 a.m. MLK INTERFAITH FREEDOM CELEBRATION – Virtual Program “Together We Rise!” Event details and registration available by sending email to the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council at, Questions may also be sent to Love offering donations will be accepted to Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Santa Monica.

Saturday, January 15, at 2 p.m. SANTA MONICA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA “Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Concert” May be virtual. TBD. Preregistration is required. Information available at

More details about the “Weekend of Celebrations” are available at

Submitted by Grace Smith, SMC