For the 28th and final year, islander Emma Amiad is hosting a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his true birthday.
Amiad, who shares King’s birthday and is retiring this year, has hosted similar events for nearly three decades. This year’s event is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Vashon Methodist Church.
The celebration will include a sing-along, led by Marita Ericksen, of some of King’s favorite gospel songs, as well as “Amazing Grace” sung by Ericksen and Diane Kutzke of the Vashon Lutheran Church.
Amiad, who said the evening will be “really laid back,” will review some of the highlights from previous celebrations. They include candlelight vigils before the start of both gulf wars, stories from two African American women on the island who marched with King, musical celebrations, and talks by current State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu and Stephen Gonzales. Yu, born to a Chinese father and Mexican mother, is the state’s first openly gay justice, the first Asian American justice, the first Latina justice, and the 11th woman ever to serve on Washington State’s Supreme Court.
Gonzalez, who was recently reelected to the court, descended on his father’s side from refugees from the Mexican Revolution, and his ancestors on his maternal side emigrated through Ellis Island from eastern Europe. Amiad recalled that when he came to Vashon, there was a snowstorm, and he brought a suitcase with him in case he could not get home.
“The place was packed,” Amiad recalled.
Previously, Amiad shared why she has been so dedicated to offering these events.
“Dr. King has been gone over 50 years. He was killed for his beliefs. He was always out on the street and out with people. His strength was not to give up but to work toward light and hope,” she said.
At the gathering, as has been the case at the 27 previous events, there will be plenty of birthday cake.
— Susan Riemer