“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King

The 33rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration was held on Sunday, January 15 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. The program highlighted Milwaukee youth who interpreted Dr. King’s works through arts, speech, and writing. The crowd of hundreds that attended included officials from the Milwaukee Public School system and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin.

The only cities that have celebrated Dr. King’s Birthday annually since 1984 are Atlanta, Georgia and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The theme of this year’s program was “We Shall Overcome.” The event reviewed six decades of effort and a long path still ahead to reach Dr. King’s dream.

The celebration was hosted by Janan Najeeb and Alex Lasry, with performances by the United Indians of Milwaukee, Riverside University High School Swing Choir, Milwaukee Flyers Tumbling Team, and Malik Johnson, Hip Hop Cellist from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.

“Regardless of where are you on the political spectrum, we have seen a great deal of divisiveness across our country. We all have a responsibility to overcome that divisiveness. In celebrating Dr. King’s birthday, let’s take our inspiration and begin our journey of healing.”

– Paul Mathews, President & CEO, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

“As citizens, we should never allowed the real history to be replaced by a fake history. That is our charge today, and I am confident that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would embrace it. I ask you all to do what you can in his memory, and in honor of John Lewis.”

– Tom Barrett, Mayor of the City of Milwaukee

“If there was anyone who radiated the most Christian sense of the word love his entire life, it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One of my favorite sermons that he wrote was from 1957, about loving your neighbor as thy self. The harder part is to love thy enemy. Dr. King gave an extraordinary explanation about why that’s important, and also the difference between love and liking. You don’t have to like what people do. You don’t have to like the things I say, the actions they take, or the policies they support. He understood, never limit those who can agree with you.”

– Chris Abele, Milwaukee County Executive

“Discrimination is a serious disease that we must overcome. I am a proud American, and I also happen to be Muslim. It is sickening to listen to those who call on ‘others’ to go back to their country. Why? Because this is our country. For those who tell me to go home, guess what? I’m already here. We are all Americans and we all belong here. Those who don’t understand that should take Gold Star father Khizr Khan’s suggestion and pick up a copy of the American Constitution.”

– Ameen Atta, Speech Contest Winner (Grades 9 – 10)

“Men and women whose names we may never know, those people who marched, those people who picketed, those people who resisted, those people who chanted ‘we shall overcome,’ those are the people who brought us closer to the ideals of this country even though there were setbacks. If we are to overcome, we are all going to have to work together today, like they did back then. The type a nation we build for the future depends on all of us working together now, and identifying those things we have in common. Now is not the time to turn on each other, now is the time to turn towards each other.”

– Gwen Moore, U.S. Congresswoman