While many people take Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition considers it a day on.

“People should use the MLK holiday as a day of service, not just a day off work,” says Darlene Evans, chair of the Coalition. “We encourage people to get out and do something in their community.”

The Coalition is a nonprofit organization comprised of a diverse group of Westside individuals, churches, institutions, community organizations and businesses.

“Our goal is to go forth and work towards continuing to reach those goals that [Dr. King] had,” says Evans, “to get people to try to live up to his goals, to continue to perpetuate them and to not let his goals and his role fade.”

Nat Trives, one of the founders of the Coalition 24 years ago, the same year the holiday was first observed, offers this explanation.

“The chartered mission of The MLK Coalition is for the sole purpose of honoring the mission and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday.”

This year, the honoring will be done through three separate events, all occurring in Santa Monica. The celebrations are presented in cooperation with the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra and the Westside Interfaith Coalition.

Breakfast will be served from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Thursday, January 15th, at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at the Calvary Baptist Church, 1502 20th St. in Santa Monica.

The breakfast features speaker Stephen Rohde, a constitutional lawyer, lecturer, writer and political activist. He is a former president of both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California and the Beverly Hills Bar Association, and is a founder of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace.

“The second annual breakfast keeps in the tradition of Dr. King as an interfaith people working together on the issues of civil rights,” says Father Michael Gutierrez of St. Anne’s Catholic Church, co-chair of the Interfaith Coalition.

“The Interfaith coalition is an inclusive organization recognizing the need for peoples of faith and non-faith to have a venue for expression and acceptance,” says Trives. “If it’s anything like last year’s experience, people will leave with a sense of empowerment and hope. Actually, I spoke with attendees who were exhilarated by the experience.”

The suggested donation is $25 per person or $200 for a table of ten.

Sunday, January 18th, at 3:30 p.m., the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra presents the Third Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Concert, a free show which takes place at the SGI-USA Auditorium at 525 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica. The orchestra is conducted by Allen Robert Gross.

“This year our program begins with works by two of America’s most important African American composers, William Grant Still and Adolphus Hailstork,” says Gross.

The show then concludes with the young Filipino American pianist Jovanni-Rey de Pedro accompanying the orchestra in the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2.

“Programming the MLK concerts gives me the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the musical community, particularly in showcasing composers and performers that are not normally thought to be in the ‘mainstream’ of classical music,” adds Gross.

Monday, January 19th, at 9 a.m., the 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration caps off the festivities at the SGI-USA Auditorium. The free event is a multiethnic interfaith program that includes inspirational readings, music and a performance by Angel City Chorale.

“The musical selections we have chosen to honor the Martin Luther King Day celebration reflect the vitality of Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ message,” says Dan Barnett, associate conductor and managing director of the Chorale. “Dr. King gave the hope that the dream, any dream, is possible.”

The celebration concludes with a keynote address by Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States as well as the Under-Secretary-General under Kofi Annan.

The theme of this year’s Celebration is “Be the Change You Want to See in the World.” That change can start by taking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on, not off.

Information, (310) 434-4303 or (310) 453-5511.

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