Ventura County’s Martin Luther King Jr. observance will inspire virtual event

For the second year, Ventura County’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration will be virtual, but organizers said the two-hour celebration will nonetheless be filled with music, video and inspiration.

The 36th annual event begins online at 10 a.m. Monday and features community leaders, choirs and speakers. The theme is “One people, one nation, one dream…Let’s keep moving forward”.

If it’s anything like last year’s virtual gathering, attendees are sure to enjoy the program.

“There wasn’t a dull moment,” Iva Jeffreys, organizer and member of the Ventura County Martin Luther King Jr. committee, said of last year’s online edition. “It was like you were right there.”

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This year’s keynote speaker is Perry Martin Jr., professor of business at Moorpark College and the University of West Los Angeles, where he is also director of faculty development.

Martin also served 21 years in the military, retiring as a sergeant major. He was the first enlisted African-American to receive the Bronze Star for combat in the Global War on Terror after 9/11.

Monday’s student speaker is Paulina Betancourt, who attends Thurgood Marshall School in Oxnard. She was the winner of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Service Sorority Speech Exhibition.

For LaRita Montgomery, the annual event is a way to bring generations together and keep King’s dream alive.

“It’s so important to me,” said Montgomery, committee chair and volunteer for more than 20 years.

Jeffreys said last year’s event drew 430 people, and she hopes more will join the festivities on Monday.

“It was awesome,” she said. “We expect at least as much.”

The program includes audio-visual highlights such as a message from Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., and a pre-recorded choral performance of gospel and spiritual music, featuring the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Choir in Oxnard , Jeffreys said. .

“The vocals are just beautiful and they’re dressed the same so it looks like they’re all together,” said Jeffreys who previewed the performances.

She said she hopes next year’s event brings people together in person.

“I think the main thing people have been missing is good food,” Jeffreys said. “Hopefully COVID will be over by next year and we can do everything in person – and eat.”

To participate in the event, learn more about the committee or to volunteer, visit mlkventuracounty.com.