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Annual MLK, Jr. Coalition celebration marks 40th year

Hundreds marched through the streets of Cincinnati Monday celebrating the life and memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. The march culminated with the  MLK, Jr. Coalition's 40th annual program at Music Hall.

Teacher Victoria Haygood brought a group of students from Wyoming High School. She says she hopes they'll take away a sense of community, "that everyone's  a part of the community. That Dr. King's dream was a universal dream. It wasn't about the African-American community. Of course, that's what the stimulus was, but I think that they need to see the collaborative efforts that make something like this come together."

The program had a strong youth focus this year. Rather than having a keynote speaker, several youth theater and spoken word groups performed. Organizers say the goal is to encourage younger generations to continue King's work.

16-year-old Isaiah Reaves served as master of ceremonies in training. He says education about King's non-violent movement is important.

"I think Martin Luther King's primary goal was to make a statement without violence," said Reaves. "And to love each other and to be respectful to one another. And he proved through his movement, you can make a statement without violence."

Reaves' grandmother, a Freedom Rider during the 60s, watched on proudly from her box seat as children sang and performed short plays.

MLK, Jr. Coalition members say they want young people to take away a challenge to continue King's work.

Jim Bush brought his young granddaughters to learn about equality.

"We can all be one," he said. "And we can all have dreams and we can help each other achieve those dreams and goals."

Valerie Price brought her grandchildren as well.

"Dr. King said that 'we shall overcome.' And we've overcome a lot of things that he's predicted," she said. "He said 'one day little black girls and little white boys were going to be holding hands.' Well, they ain't just holding hands, they're married and making babies, and that's a beautiful thing."

"I enjoy this day," said Price.

Seton High School 9th grader Arderia Lankford brought the crowd to its feet when she ended her monolog by saying, "there are only two races: kind and unkind. All life matters. Now, pass that on."

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.