“Dr. King has written over two millions words, and people have found their causes in these words, whether fighting for human rights, health care, labor rights,” says Howard L. Vern, discussing the wide influence of the civil rights leader across a variety of social causes, in addition to the struggle for racial equality. Vern is the chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission, which organizes the annual MLK Marade, as well as a number of other events honoring King.
Here are just five of the events community groups have planned for tomorrow and Tuesday to celebrate King’s legacy.
Civic Center Park during last year's Marade.
1. Dr. Martin Luther King Annual Marade
Tens of thousands of people will march in the Marade, one of the largest events in the nation commemorating the civil rights leader: Last year the event attracted 68,000 people. Activities start at 9 a.m. at the I Have a Dream Memorial statue on the south side of City Park near East 17th Avenue and Esplanade, with invocations from community religious leaders and welcomes from Colorado senators Michael Bennett and Cory Gardner. At 10:15 a.m., the Marade will travel down Colfax ending at Civic Center Park.
2. District Attorney Forum and Community Discussion
Organized by The Denver Justice Project, the D.A. Forum immediately follows the Marade at Trinity United Methodist, 1820 Broadway; doors open at 12:30. Four candidates for Denver district attorney will speak. Alexander Landau of the Denver Justice Project says that he and other advocates of justice system reform "see this particular election as an opportunity to transform the Denver DA office into a vehicle geared towards community prosperity." The group is grieved, in particular, by the total absence of indictments of "law-enforcement personnel for felony excessive force or homicide" under the current DA, he says.
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Last year's "Dinner for Those Who Hunger."
Drawing inspiration from King's 1966 speech at the Chicago Freedom Rally, in which he articulated his vision for the Poor People's Campaign, this service opportunity will provide meals for upwards of 20,000 people. A joint effort of the MLK Colorado Holiday Commission and Volunteers of America, this event starts at 3 p.m. at the VOA Sunset Park Senior Center, 1865 Larimer Street. Register here.
Bulls at the 2016 National Western Stock Show.
4. Rodeo of Champions
When Howard Vern of the MLK Colorado Holiday Commission launched the Rodeo of Champions in 2006, he soon received a phone call from Coretta Scott King. "Really?" she asked, "a rodeo?" Vern's response: "When in Rome." The rodeo, organized in partnership with the National Western Stock Show, features world-class African-American steer wrestlers, bronco wrestlers and other rodeo wranglers. It starts at 6 p.m. at the National Western Stock Show Coliseum at 4655 Humboldt Street.
5. Groundworks MLK Day of Service Neighborhood Energy Outreach
Groundworks is a local non-profit that focuses on energy efficiency and community development. At this event, volunteers will go door to door in north Denver offering to provide free, minor energy retrofits to homes — changing out old lightbulbs with energy and money-saving compact fluorescent bulbs, for example. Says Dele Johnson of Groundwork: "Shelter is considered a basic human right no matter what your race, creed, color, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. So when we do our energy outreach to offer residents our free services, we are working to help everyone we come in contact with save money on energy bills and keep their homes properly insulated, comfortable, and efficient." Volunteers who've signed up meet at 1 p.m. at the Zion Senior Center, 5151 East 33rd Avenue, and work until 4 p.m.