Martin Luther King Jr. would be 90 this month. Modesto-area events will recall him

Martin Luther King Jr. Day In Modesto

Musical performances and speeches at Christian Love Baptist Church. Deke Farrow/
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Musical performances and speeches at Christian Love Baptist Church. Deke Farrow/

Gatherings in Modesto, Sonora and Merced will mark the 90th birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in mid-January. Another event, the annual observance at Modesto Junior College, will wait until March because the speaker is heavily booked.

King was born Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta and assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis. The national holiday this year is Monday, Jan. 21.

The events will recall King’s work against racism, poverty and war during his 39 years on Earth. The details:

Modesto, Friday, Jan. 18: The Rev. Jeremiah Williams, a local businessman and civic leader, will speak at the 26th annual luncheon at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center.

Williams owns Oak Crafts by Jeremiah, a cabinet shop on Seventh Street, and volunteers for many local causes.

The luncheon will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door. The center is at 601 S. Martin Luther King Drive.

Sonora, Sunday, Jan. 20: The 24th annual event will feature a panel discussion on poverty in the Mother Lode.

It will include two people from CHIPS, a group working to create jobs and reduce wildfires by putting forest thinnings to use. They are former Calaveras County Supervisor Steve Wilensky and Irvin Jim, chairman of the Woodfords Community Council of the Washoe Tribe in Alpine County.

Also on the panel are Mark Dyken, director of the Jamestown School Resource Center, and Margie Bulkin, retired Tuolumne County school superintendent and current board member with the Yosemite Community College District.

The free gathering will start at 2 p.m. in the Sonora High School auditorium, 430 N. Washington St. The program also features Rayna Rogers, a junior at that campus, reading her contest-winning essay. And the organizers will present the first Laurie Aretsky Bailie Social Justice Award to Jeanette Lambert, founder of the Lambert Drop In Center for homeless people in Sonora.

Modesto, Monday Jan. 21: The 31st annual observance at Christian Love Baptist Church will welcome back pastor Lonnie Anderson, who was born in Modesto and now leads a church in Indiana. He was mentored in his youth by Christian Love pastor James Anderson, no relation, who died last year.

Lonnie Anderson first preached in Bakersfield and went on to attend Selma University in Alabama. He served at churches in Selma and Marion, Alabama, and now is at Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church in Kokomo, Indiana.

The free event will start at 10 a.m. and feature music and other activities. Christian Love is at 202 H St.

Merced, Monday, Jan. 21: The 23rd annual event will start with an 11 a.m. march from the Merced County Fairgrounds, at Eighth Street and Martin Luther King Way.

The march will end at the Art Karmangar Theatre on Main Street, where a noon program will be held with the theme: “Recapture the dream, yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

Modesto, Saturday, March 30: Noted author Michael Eric Dyson will speak at the 24th annual commemoration in the auditorium on the MJC East Campus, 435 College Ave.

Dyson is a sociology professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and a Baptist minister. His 19 books include “Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster” and “The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America.”

The event will start at 7 p.m. More details will be provided later.

John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.