Local Martin Luther King Jr. observance to inspire in virtual event

·2 min read
A screenshot via Zoom of last year's live-streamed Ventura County Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, with keynote speaker Tamika Jean-Baptiste, upper left.
A screenshot via Zoom of last year's live-streamed Ventura County Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, with keynote speaker Tamika Jean-Baptiste, upper left.

For the second year, Ventura County's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance will be virtual, but organizers said the two-hour celebration will nonetheless be filled with plenty of music, video and inspiration.

The 36th annual event starts online at 10 a.m. Monday and brings together community leaders, choirs and speakers. The theme is "One People, One Nation, One Dream…Let’s Keep Moving Forward.”

If it's anything like last year's virtual gathering, attendees are sure to enjoy the program.

"There was not a dull moment," Iva Jeffreys, an organizer and member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Ventura County, said of last year's online edition. "It was like you were right there."

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This year's keynote speaker is Perry Martin Jr., a professor of business at Moorpark College and the University of West Los Angeles where he also serves as director of faculty development.

Martin also served 21 years in the Army, retiring as a sergeant major. He was the first enlisted African American to be awarded the Bronze Star for combat in the Global War on Terrorism after 9/11.

Monday's student speaker is Paulina Betancourt, who attends Thurgood Marshall School in Oxnard. She was the winner of the service sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha's speech expo.

For LaRita Montgomery, the annual event is a way to come together across generations and to keep King's dream alive.

"That is so important me," said Montgomery, a committee chairperson and a volunteer for more than 20 years.

Jeffreys said the last year's event drew 430 people, and she's hopeful even more will join the festivities Monday.

"It was great," she said. "We're expecting at least that many."

The program includes some audio-visual feats such as a message by Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., and a pre-recorded choral performance of gospel and spiritual music, featuring the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church choir in Oxnard, Jeffreys said.

"The voices are just beautiful and they're dressed alike so it looks like they're all together," said Jeffreys who has previewed the performances.

She said she hopes the event next year will bring people together in person.

"I think the main thing people missed was the good food," Jeffreys said. "Hopefully, COVID will be over next year and we can do it all in person – and eat."

To join the event, find out more about the committee or to volunteer, visit mlkventuracounty.com.

This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Ventura County's Martin Luther King Jr. observance to inspire in virtual event

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