"MLK Day Celebration message is peace, unity"

"It will bring together many cultures, beliefs and people, but this year's Martin Luther King celebration will still have one goal: unity.The community event, now in its fifth year, is scheduled to begin promptly at 10:30 a.m. at Decatur High School on Jan. 15, the observed birthday of the slain civil rights leader.Through song, dance, speech and film, organizers hope a record-breaking crowd fills the gym and more importantly comes to hear the message of peace, understanding and prayer. Event Chairman, Ron Walker, also chairman of the Federal Way Diversity Commission, says those who attend the free program won't be disappointed.We have a lot of great performers coming, Walker said. We were looking this year more towards dancing than anything to start this off. It will be something to see, that's for sure. Five energetic dance numbers will kick off the event with cultural dances. Members of the Filipino American Association of Federal Way will spotlight a native dance called Tinikling where performers click long bamboo poles and dance around them. The Northwest Irish Dancers will return this year dancing to their brand of high energy Celtic music. New to the event this year are Puget Sound area dancers Kiva Harris and Kimberly Morgan. The duo will dance to African styles of tap, jazz, modern dance and hip-hop. Harris is also a member of the Sea Gals, which is the Seattle Seahawks cheerleading team. A traditional Mexican Hat Dance, the way it's supposed to be done, Walker said will be a colorful mix to the dance by performers Joyas Mestivas. In addition, the Greek culture will be represented by dancing from Levenvya.But more than the dancing, Walker hopes people understand the meaning and purpose behind the whole event. It's very important to have something for the community to gather around, some kind of unifying peace, Walker said. This is what is helping unite Federal Way.Last year, about 400 people packed the Decatur gym. Walker says he expects at least that many and hopefully more with curious people looking to add meaning to the day.Martin Luther King day is not about African-Americans and civil rights, he said. Martin Luther King was far bigger than that. It's a day for everybody. It's about truth, justice and doing what's right. This is the day for them to come and see this in action. In addition to the dances and speeches, Walker says those who attend Monday's celebration will walk away knowing more about King and his efforts to gain equality for all of mankind, he said. Federal Way Diversity Commissioner Diane Landsinger also hopes the community will reflect on the importance of civil rights.Since it's not a paid holiday for private businesses, many people I think will take the day off, she said. All of us need to take a look at where we stand on issues of fairness and respect.Parlaying King's message, an awards presentation is scheduled for students who entered the city-sponsored Through the Eyes of a King contest during the program. Students who participated and won for their entries in poetry, art or writing will be presented with a certificate and a cash award.Hoping to add a bit of mystery and to entice residents to attend the celebration, Walker is holding off on announcing the keynote speaker.Last year, organizers chose Carl Livingston, Ph.D, president of Seattle Central Community College to deliver the address.All I can say is he's a Puget Sound resident with acting experience, he said.Coupled with the mystery speaker, Walker said people should also be inspired by the lighting of the Community Flame, made especially for the program.Standing at 21-inches tall and 10-inches in diameter, Federal Way Mayor Mike Park will place the flame atop a gas oil lamp. It will symbolize community togetherness and unity much like a unity candle does when it is lit by a husband and wife during a wedding ceremony, Walker said.This will definitely be something to see, he said. They'll be talking about this till next year. "

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