MLK Day event puts focus on being 'the Dream'
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s biggest legacy may be his vision for America, but he would not have become the face of the civil rights movement if he had not taken action to bring about change in America.
It's taking action that the steering committee for Newberg's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration is focusing on this year, hence the "Be the Dream" theme for this year's event, which returns to the Chehalem Cultural Center Monday.
With immigration policy at the forefront of the political conversation both locally and nationally over the past year, the committee also made reaching out to the local Latino community a priority.
"We were thinking of some of the big news events, like the DACA thing that is coming up," committee member Suzanne Miller said. "So we thought that would be very appropriate with Dr. King's philosophy and also timely."
The committee wanted to feature a speaker who personified the "Be the Dream" theme in the Latino community and selected Newberg resident Ines Pena.
Pena, who ran for Newberg school board in May and is set to serve on the district's upcoming bond planning committee, and is the development director at the Capaces Leadership Institute in Woodburn. She is also a board member of Unidos Bridging Community, a nonprofit that advocates for and supports Latinos in Yamhill County.
"I'm very involved in advocating for rights in general and it's part of why I'm so happy and honored to be the keynote speaker," Pena said. "I've grown up seeing all the history on his work and the wonderful things that Dr. King did. I've always had a special place for him and his work in my heart."
Pena said that Unidos often begins its meetings with a quote of Dr. King's, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that," and that she tries to embody that approach to her community work.
"It's hard not to get carried away and upset and angry and then use that anger to figure out ways to fight back," Pena said. "But the key is to fight back with love and in a way that comes from love. That way it becomes a more peaceful way, people will be able to see your perspective more and listen to what you have to say rather than dismissing you for causing chaos or being upset."
The event will begin with a half-hour reception at 5:30 p.m. Auggie Gonzeles returns to serve as emcee once more for the hour-long main program at 6 p.m. In addition to Pena, that will include a performance by the Edwards Elementary School Folklorio Dance group, a spoken word piece by George Fox University's Israel Hammond and a performance by Newberg High School's Vocal Point choir ensemble.
This year is also the 50th anniversary of King's assassination and the event will also include a special exhibit featuring mementos and press clippings from the personal files of members of the steering committee.
Pena said she appreciated how the committee is putting the "Be the Dream" theme into action by expanding the closing reception at 7 p.m. to include a community resource fair with representation from several community organizations, including Unidos, the George Fox Center for Peace and Justice, Peace Village, Newberg Rotary and the Newberg Public Library.
"If people feel moved to 'Be the Dream' and take action, we'll have resources for them to connect with," Miller said.