January 2024
Celebration of Dr. King
MLK Day Celebration Features Exciting Speakers, Day of Service after March

In Prescott’s ninth year of recognizing Martin Luther King Day, a dynamic orator and a riveting spoken-word artist are the main speakers for the 2024 MLK Day Celebration on Monday, January 11. The theme of the event is Love in Action, a nod to Dr. King’s call for the community to put its words of love and affirmation into action.

Retired professor Dr. Kelly Lambert filled classes as a popular speaker at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and is expected to inspire attendees as keynote speaker at the event following the march. Dr. Lambert is a retired US Air Force Master Sergeant, and was one of the few Black professors on campus, teaching at ERAU for over ten years, primarily leading the Values and Ethics course required for all engineering students. He was consistently described as one of the most popular and effective instructors on campus, encouraging students to raise controversial topics. He will discuss how he has put “love into action” in our region.

Jim Helbling, one of the event’s organizers, is also a retired ERAU professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering. He said his wife introduced him to Dr. Lambert because she’d worked with him in the Humanities and Communications Department.

“The students just loved him and his teacher evaluations reflected that,” Helbling said. “He allowed any subject to be brought up in the class and would allow civil discussion. He made sure everybody had a chance to speak.”

Truth B. Told, a Phoenix-area poet with national standing, has spoken in Prescott previously at celebratory events hosted by Prescott Indivisible, the Yavapai Democratic Party and last year’s MLK event. His forceful delivery of poetry and prose wows audiences with wit and insight.

A parade kicks off the celebration starting at 10am, and the main program begins at 11am at Prescott United Methodist Church on Gurley Street. Paraders will gather at the Prescott College Welcome Center on the corner of Grove and Western Avenues between 9:30 and 10:00am. From there the march will proceed around the Courthouse Plaza and conclude at the church.

The celebration program will include poetry composed and read by local teens. The Launch Pad Teen Center is organizing MLK-related activities for younger audience members in a room separate from the main event. Launch Pad teens will also tell the audience about their Better Together campaign, which promotes effective discussion to address social division in the Prescott area.

Following the celebration and lunch, two breakout sessions will be on offer from 1 to 2pm in which attendees can meet Dr. Lambert and Truth B. Told to discuss MLK’s legacy and related topics. Attendees will be able to sign up for community-service projects organized by Arizona Serve AmeriCorps.

Organizer, writer and teacher “Robert Shegog had the idea to give people the opportunity to interact with the speakers, ask them questions and talk about MLK’s legacy,” Helbling said. “They had a lively discussion last year, and that was one of my favorite parts of the event. Truth B. Told was asked questions until 2:30, and then we had to kick people out.”

The event’s organizers, from the Prescott MLK Jr. Peace and Justice Committee, are service-minded members of the community who volunteer to promote social justice in the Prescott area. This year will be the 30th year that MLK Day will be celebrated as a National Day of Service and the 41st year the day will commemorate Dr. King’s birthday as a federal holiday.

Journalist Toni Denis is a frequent contributor

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