Mesa, region mark MLK Day in various ways The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa, region mark MLK Day in various ways

January 18th, 2021 Mesa Tribune Staff
Mesa, region mark MLK Day in various ways


Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorations tomorrow, Jan. 18, likely will be different, with many community service projects normally held that day either canceled or curtailed because of the need to maintain social distance.

But that doesn’t mean the day will be ignored in Mesa and the East Valley.

While Mesa is not hosting an in-person parade and festival due to the pandemic, it is holding “digital photo parade with three ways to get involved. This would have marked the 25th anniversary of
the parade.

Past parade participants are being asked to solicit a photo. People can visit and take a picture with an online selfie card by answering the question “How am I (we) living the dream?” 

Mesa, all other East Valley communities and the East Valley Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee are participating in a project with AZPBS’ Arizona Horizon, which will present on TV and at 5 p.m. tomorrow segments on past, present and future aspects of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Arizona State University professor Dr. Neal Lester will be a featured guest as it examines the speech’s content and historical context as well as King’s inspiration for writing it and its social impact on the Civil Rights movement.

It also will present people from three different generations describe how MLK and his speech has impacted their lives. It also will explore changes within their communities that are helping to achieve racial equality.         

“Our hope is through this program, we continue to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and encourage all people to actively work towards achieving the promise of freedom and justice for all,” said Ebonye Delaney, Arizona PBS digital director and executive producer of the presentation.

In keeping with the pandemic’s restrictions, this year’s Regional Unity Walk has been revamped.

Instead of gathering at Temple Beach Park, residents are directed to a showcasing of cultural arts, a Visual Journey of Diversity, Culture and Equity, in Mesa and throughout the East Valley.

“We wanted to be able to plan something that would be really just as meaningful and symbolic of a regional effort,” said Andrea Alicoate, diversity administrator for City of Mesa.

“More importantly, this is even more of an important time to celebrate the culture and equity among the different communities.”

The cities have created an arts map to highlight sculptures, murals and other art spots that are easily accessible outdoors. In addition, each city chose to highlight things that are special to their own communities, Alicoate said.

For example, Mesa has organized an art exhibition at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum.

With the arts, the idea is to encourage people to do a driving, biking or walking tour through the different cities, and pay attention to some of the cultural art or artists in each of the cities, said Niki Tapia, community resources and diversity supervisor for the City of Chandler.

“This is a way they can go for a drive with their family, go take some selfies, have some fun,” Tapia said. “Also, we’re trying to support businesses, restaurants run by people of color and we’re wanting to encourage people to go get some takeout and have a picnic.

The Unity Walk began 18 years ago to celebrate King. Organizers stretched the celebration through Jan. 31 to give people more time to enjoy the art in various cities.

The Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum invited a guest curator, Clottee Hammons of Emancipation Arts, who organized a special pop-up titled “Human Contrasts” through Jan. 31.

Hammons used the “Dream” speech
to show things King witnessed
in society.

Curator Tiffany Fairall said that it’s a commentary on how, though we may seem dissimilar on the surface, we have commonalities and similar struggles.

Lester also is co-facilitator of a webcast 6-8 p.m. Monday on “The King We Don’t Know,” a 2018 NPR interview assessing the King’s legacy led by Dr. Charles McKinney, professor of history at Rhodes College in Memphis. People can register for it at 

Lester explained he orchestrated that webcast because “I decided that we could do something a little more critically productive” on a day commemorating the late civil rights leader.

“Service is fine,” he said, but Lester felt some critical discussion on King and his seminal speeches like “I Have a Dream” would deepen people’s understanding of King’s beliefs and mission.

Since George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police last May, Lester said, people have been “pulling out King quotes and I’m always kind of amazed at the way in which we want to romanticize King and see him as being sort of ‘We Are the World or “Let’s Sing the Coke Song.’”

Lester said that in the “Dream” speech and 1967 “The Other America” speech, King “calls out police brutality, where he calls out injustices and where he talks very specifically about a divided America, the haves and the have nots.”

Details are at

For a complete list of MLK Day activities:

For an interactive map of the Regional Unity Art Walk, visit

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