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Loveland MLK Day History

By Carol Radcliff – January 6, 2009

The Loveland MLK Day Celebration has always been planned and implemented by a small, grassroots citizen group who believe in promoting the values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The group changes from year to year, depending who has the time, interest and energy to be involved. To the best of our knowledge, this is the 20th Annual event. Since formal records have not been kept, much of this information comes from my memory of serving on the committee over the last approximately 18 years and sporadic notes that I’ve managed to retrieve.

In the late ‘80’s a group from the Baha’i Faith conducted the very first celebrations at the Loveland Library and the First United Presbyterian Church. After that, a broader group joined the Baha’i’s and began expanding the content of the event to include multiple performers, an art and essay contest, art and book displays and non-profit information booths. There has always been a social hour after the program to allow people to share refreshments, ideas, conversation and good will.

The evening has always included a program that appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds and, hopefully, inspires people to incorporate the values of Dr. King into their own lives. Following is a list of many of the performers/speakers who have been on the event stage over the last 20 years.

•   Bett Kopit, Actress/Singer/Storyteller

•   Logo Ligi – African Drumming /Dance Ensemble and Katy Little – Story Teller

•  Gloria Green – Local Loveland Storyteller

•  Amani Ali (KOA Radio) and Gloria Neal (KHOW Radio) addressing Martin Luther King’s Impact on the Media. Also, Mary Constantine-Nelson Dancers

•   Dr. Mohammed Siddiqui – Founder of Ft. Collins Islamic Center and Huma Babak, reading Islamic poems, Founder of the Afghan Students Association at CSU and the International Club at Ft. Collins’ Rocky Mountain High School

•   Wakesa Madimoyo – nationally-acclaimed educator, researcher and consultant discussing the broad and varying aspects of Dr. King

•   Patricia Sanders-Hall – award-winning writer, storyteller and poet presenting both “Everyday A Dream, Everyday A Journey” and “Martin’s Dreams”

•   Abyssinian Christian Church Choir – Fort Collins church choir singing traditional African-American gospel songs

•   LaMills Garrett – captivating Northern Colorado poet • Darin Green/Gospel Voices – locally-grown, founder of CALM Research Institute discussing the relevance of Dr. King’s dream to our community, along with fantastic a capella Gospel troupe

•   Opalanga/Santemu Aakhu/Mary Constantine-Nelson Dancers – nationally renowned storyteller headlining “It Takes A Village For All Generations

•   Yolande Bruce/Dan Dance Trio – Acclaimed Minnesota vocalist/actress, backed by a Denver jazz band, performing a series of songs and narrations on Drl King’s freedom

•   Our Fathers Children – Outstanding Denver-area community gospel choir

•   Ladjamaya – nationally renowned dramatist with the one-woman presentation “The Black Experience: A Cry for World Peace”

•   Mary Zimmerman – Local vocalist/actress performing songs relating to Dr. King’s life

•   Professor Blaine Harding – CSU professor of African-American Studies

•   Ellen Roos – Local singer-songwriter singing songs about the spirit of Dr. King’s ideals

In the late ‘90’s an elementary/middle school art and essay contest was added to the events. What began with a very minimal number of entries from the students (total of three!) has now grown to hundreds of entries each year. In 2009, the art portion of the contest has been expanded to include high school students. Winning art work and essays are featured on the night of the event and prizes are awarded. In addition, winning essays have been read at local book stores and on local Fort Collins radio (KRFC).

For the last several years, the Loveland MLK Planning Committee has collaborated with the Fort Collins MLK Planning Committee on the creation of a poster that is designed and produced by CSU students and includes information about celebration events in both communities.

Each year, funds are raised from a combination of local large and small businesses, the City of Loveland and from individuals. Donations of services and goods are also given by businesses and individuals in the community. On the night of the event, a food and clothing drive produces many items for the House of Neighborly Services.

There are many individuals from the Loveland Namaqua Unitarian Universalist Congregation who volunteer each year to help present the event. Other’s who have been very instrumental in keeping the event alive are Joe Kirschling (deceased), Scott Sprague, Gloria Green, Releen Firooz, Pam Howard, Joe Jabaily (deceased), Leslie Jabaily, Maria Gabriel, and Mary Jane Willard.