Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Mathew Ahmann, executive director of the National Catholic Conference for Interrracial Justice, at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Fifty years ago this month, Martin Luther King Jr. called upon Americans to "let freedom ring ... from every village and every hamlet, every state and every city." Palo Alto will celebrate King's Dream and the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 26, with an emphasis on the link between Silicon Valley and the King legacy.
The event will feature labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta; Clayborne Carson, executive director of Stanford University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute; a multimedia commemoration with jazz vocalist Kim Nalley, actor Aldo Billingslea performing as King, musicians Marcus Shelby and Tammy Hall; and a special tribute to 1963 March participants Clarence Jones, John Lewis and Joan Baez.
A showing of the celebrated film "Soundtrack for a Revolution" will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. with the music and tributes to follow.
Palo Alto's event is expected to be the second largest commemoration of the March and King's "I Have a Dream" speech in the country, outside of the 2013 March on Washington celebration in Washington, D.C., Carson said. The event is sponsored by the City of Palo Alto, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute and developer Jim Baer.
The free event is open to the public.
"Join us in honoring our past. Together we will move forward with commitment to a nonviolent future," Baer said.
Palo Alto and Stanford have strong ties to supporting King's legacy. He spoke on the Stanford campus on at least two occasions, and in 1985 his widow, Coretta Scott King, selected Carson to edit and publish all of her late husband's writings, speeches, sermons and correspondence. Stanford's King Research and Education Institute, which Carson founded, is a center for research about King and the movements he inspired.
In 2007, Palo Alto's City Hall Plaza was renamed King Plaza in honor of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King.
"The City of Palo Alto has a long history of community engagement on the issues that Dr. Martin Luther King dedicated his life to, namely peace, freedom and equality for all. The words of his 'I Have a Dream' speech still ring true today, and we honor his legacy with the recognition of the historic contributions he made to this country," Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff said.
Organizers hope the event will inspire action to complete King's dream of an equitable society for people of color and all people, they said.
"Silicon Valley, the site of history's greatest revolution in communications technology, can and should play a major role in disseminating the visionary ideas associated with King, the most prominent leader of one of history's greatest freedom struggles. This collaboration between the King Institute and the City of Palo Alto can and should serve as a stimulus for long-term collaborations involving local residents and leading Silicon Valley institutions to 'let freedom ring' throughout the world," Carson said.
What: Let Freedom Ring! A celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Who: Labor leader Dolores Huerta; scholar Clayborne Carson; multimedia commemoration featuring jazz vocalist Kim Nalley, actor Aldo Billingslea (as King), musicians Marcus Shelby and Tammy Hall; and special tributes to March participants Clarence Jones, John Lewis and Joan Baez
Where: King Plaza, 250 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto
When: Monday, Aug. 26, 5 to 9 p.m. Film showing of "Soundtrack for a Revolution" from 5 to 7 p.m.; music and oratory performances from 7 to 9 p.m.