Federal Way's MLK celebration scaled back in 2010

Federal Way’s annual Martin Luther King celebration will not take place this year — at least in the format residents have come to know.

First launched in 1993, the local celebration of the American civil rights icon relied on a volunteer committee for leadership. Primary organizer Ron Walker stepped down after 10 years of leading the festivities, and the committee eventually dissolved.

Organization for the celebration was labor-intensive, and the donation pool had all but dried up, said Walker, who estimated the event's cost at $9,000. In the past, the celebration attempted to mix history with a community mindset, Walker said. Last year’s event, held at Decatur High School, included a short film of King's life and local performers representing a range of cultures.

"If anything, it's needed more than ever," he said of the celebration. "If I had the finances, I probably would have done it again."

In 2009, Federal Way resident Louise Wessel attempted to round up volunteers and performers in order to keep the celebration alive. She hopes the Federal Way celebration someday returns.

"It's kind of heart-wrenching," said Wessel, who received four responses when seeking volunteers. "Maybe they'll try again."

The Federal Way Diversity Commission usually provided $1,500 for the celebration. This year, the commission is sponsoring an essay contest with cash prizes for students of all ages. Winning essays will be announced Jan. 19 at the Federal Way City Council meeting. That meeting will feature an MLK celebration, with details being worked out, said city spokeswoman Linda Farmer.

The commission will also hold a "Day of Caring" food and blanket drive on Jan. 15, with collection bins throughout the city. In addition, a summit for about 90 high school students will be held 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Best Western Evergreen Inn and Suites hotel (at 320th and I-5).

Among the hallmarks of past Martin Luther King celebrations is the Community Flame. An idea has surfaced about placing the Community Flame and other celebration artifacts on permanent display in City Hall, said Lynnette Hynden, human services manager for Federal Way.

"I know there are people disappointed. Louise stepped up and she tried," said Hynden about the celebration's hiatus. "I know the Diversity Commission didn't want to see it go."

Essay contest

Students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 are invited to submit essays for this year's Martin Luther King essay contest sponsored by the Federal Way Diversity Commission.

The theme is "I Have a Dream for Federal Way." In 300 words or less, essays should reflect on at least one of the following:

• What does Dr. King’s speech mean to you today, in this community?

• How would Dr. King express his dream today?

• How is the dream relevant to today?

• How does your dream affect how you live your life?

• How are you making the dream a reality?

• How are you engaging the dream?

• What is the next step in reaching this dream?

• Why is your dream unique in human history?

Winning essays will be announced Jan. 19 at the Federal Way City Council meeting at City Hall. The contest is open to all public school and homeschool students living in the Federal Way School District. Categories are Pre-K through grade 2; grades 3-5; grades 6-8; and grades 9-12. Prizes will be awarded in each category, with $75 for first, $25 for second, and a certificate for honorable mention. Submissions must be accompanied by the official cover sheet and signed by a parent or guardian.

Deadline for essay submissions is Jan. 13. To learn more, e-mail Tina Piety or call (253) 835-2650.

Other celebrations

• "Marching to the Dream" from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, at Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle. This event is free and open to the public. Congressman John Lewis will deliver the keynote address. Ron Sims, Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will receive the 2010 Humanitarian Award. Music at this year’s ceremony will be performed by Dr. Quinton Morris, accompanied by Kevin Kaukl.

• Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Week runs Jan. 19-22 at Highline Community College, located at 240th Street and Pacific Highway South in Des Moines. The event is free and open to the public. This year’s event features local service activists and revolutionaries who played a role in the Civil Rights movement in Washington. E-mail

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