Martin Luther King Jr. Day is days away and the community celebration has begun.
The 2021 theme is “If You See Something, Say Something,” and was organized by Black Citizens and Friends. The celebration's lineup has both online and in-person events that accommodate current COVID-19 restrictions while honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King.
Here are details about how you can be a part of the celebration.
Several of the celebration's events have already taken place, but thanks to the internet, you easily can catch up on what happened.
An MLK Day Reading was hosted by Lithic Bookstore & Gallery in Fruita on Wednesday, Jan. 13. The event took place on Zoom and was recorded. That video can now be found at both Lithic's and Black Citizens and Friends' Facebook pages.
Another recording, this one audio instead of video, was released Thursday, Jan. 14, by Mesa County Libraries on its The Audissey podcast.
The recording offers a conversation with David Combs, president of Black Citizens and Friends, and can be found at mesacountylibraries.org/booksandmedia/.
Since the Thursday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day usually is when King is the focus of the “Neighbors Read” program for families at the library and that program isn't happening because of COVID-19 restrictions, Combs spoke about two children's books during the interview.
Those book were “Martin's Big Words," a biography using words from King's speeches, and a book about Ruby Bridges, who was one of the first students to integrate New Orleans public school system, Combs said.
But those books were only part of the conversation with Combs that encompassed a number of topics from King to equality, he said.
Saturday night, Jan. 16, is movie night and the theater is coming to you via Zoom.
Each year, two movies — one for children and one for adults — are shown as part of the celebration, Combs said.
This year, those titles are “Soul” and “One Night in Miami.”
“Soul,” an animated movie recently released by Disney, is about a jazz pianist who gets the chance of a lifetime only to have his life take a different direction. It appeals to both adults and kids and includes a life lesson, Combs said.
“Soul” will be shown at 5 p.m. Saturday on Zoom and the link to watch, as well as the meeting ID and passcode can be found at blackcitizensandfriends.com/mlk-celebration.html. That is also where the links for “One Night in Miami” can be found.
This film, which was released on Amazon Prime on Friday, will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The film's storyline presents a fictional night when Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown got together in the 1960s to discuss the civil rights movement.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration will continue on Monday, Jan. 18, with special speakers, award presentations and a march.
This is event is a combination of several that usually take place on the day, but because of the pandemic and the need to keep events outside, it has been shortened, Combs said.
This part of the celebration will begin at 1 p.m. Monday outside Grand Junction City Hall, 250 N. Fifth St. Masks should be work and social distancing practiced at this event, Combs said.
There will be an official reading of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Proclamation followed by prerecorded keynote speech from State Rep. Leslie Herod, the first African American, LGBTQ member of the Colorado General Assembly, Combs said.
That speech will be about three minutes in length — with a expected high temperature of 39 degrees, organizers didn't want those who attend standing for too long, Combs said.
A presentation of the “Making a Difference” award will be next. The 2021 award will be given to Andrew Thomas, a local second-grader who in the last six months has raised funds to buy and donate Crayola multicultural crayons and markers to every elementary school in the Grand Valley. Thomas reached his $25,000 goal and is currently delivering those crayons and markers to area schools.
Thomas' effort shows that it doesn't matter how old you are or who you are, anyone can make a difference, Combs said.
After the award presentation, there will be a march to Handy Chapel on White Avenue, which is about four blocks away from City Hall.
There the program will continue with the laying of flowers on the steps of the chapel in the memory of those who have died fighting for equality. Then the Harry Butler Community Service Award will be presented.
This year's honoree is Joe Higgins, who for more than 30 years was the executive director for Mesa County Partners, which provides mentoring and resources for at-risk youth.
“You talk about making a difference,” Combs said. “You really can't put into words the difference that Joe has made.”
The celebration will be closed by Tramine Jackson, Colorado Mesa University's head football coach.
Jackson will focus on the theme for this year's event, “If You See Something, Say Something.”
“We try to make a difference … a cultural difference,” Comb said. “For a lot of people this is maybe the only time that culture is brought into their lives.”
While it has been disappointing to not be able to have some of the celebration's usual gatherings — a Sunday service and gathering at CMU were among those — because of the pandemic, there is still one significant way everyone can be involved in the celebration, Combs said.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day also is a national day of service, he said.
“We'd like them to go out and volunteer to do something, and we want them to put what they did out on our Facebook page,” he said.
For information about the celebration, please search for Black Citizens and Friends on Facebook or go blackcitizensandfriends.com.