MLK Jr. Celebration Marks 25th Anniversary Milestone
January 18, 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of Ridgefield's MLK Jr. Day celebration, honoring the legacy of the great civil rights leader with an awards ceremony, speakers and performances.
Every year The Spirit of Dr. King Award is given to a Ridgefield resident for their outstanding commitment to community service and selflessness, as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King. This year will be special, not only because it is the 25th Anniversary of this event, but because, for the first time, it will all be done virtually.
"Although this year it will be done a little differently," says Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, "it will still be an event worthy of celebrating 25 years of holding this event and look at how far we’ve come since the ceremony began in our town 25 years ago." So, it seems only fitting to recognize the person who started the celebration a quarter-century ago, by giving The Spirit of Dr. King Award to Mark Robinson.
In addition to the awards ceremony, which will be available on the Town of Ridgefield's YouTube channel, the virtual event will include performances by The Ridgefield Chorale,
KEYS students (including the Talmadge Hill Choir), The Phil Ramone Youth Orchestra, The Ridgefield Diwali Committee, Poet Laureate Barb Jennes, students from A Better Chance, and actress Kimberly Wilson- who has also been a part of the entertainment every year since the first celebration. Sharing their own reflections on Dr. King, Rabbi Jon Haddon and Deacon Arthur Miller will give the invocation and benediction.
Over the years, the town’s MLK Jr. Day celebration has changed and grown - from standing on the steps outside of the Community Center, to becoming a larger event in the basement of Town Hall, to becoming even more celebratory when moved to The Ridgefield Playhouse in 2013. The words of Martin Luther King Jr. have been reiterated and celebrated year after year. The campaign for a federal holiday in King's honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. But it wasn't until 1983, when President Ronald Regan signed the holiday into law, and it was first observed three years later. At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names, or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.
“The Martin Luther King Day celebration has become an enduring and highly regarded new tradition in Ridgefield. Our purpose is to ensure that the spirit with which Dr. King lived and the struggles for which he died are remembered and live on in the hearts and minds of our community.” Mark Robinson is a senior level marketing executive and local community activist. Throughout his career, he has been a passionate and effective change agent in both public and private sector settings. In 1994, Mark was nominated for the 1994 Connecticut Human Rights Award for his community service and work in multicultural education. That same year he started the Committee for Educational Quality & Diversity in Ridgefield. He also served as the Chairman of Ridgefield Board of Education sub-committee for curriculum development, student resources, programs and teacher training and diversity recruiting. As a ten-year member of the Ridgefield Youth commission, where he continues to serve on to this day, he is responsible for promoting public knowledge and understanding of youth problems and needs and stimulating community responses to those problems and needs for the Town of Ridgefield. He has also served for seven years on the board of A Better Chance of Ridgefield and served as a Regional Advisory Board member for the CT Department of Education. In 2000, Mark was appointed by Connecticut’s Governor to serve on the State’s Martin Luther King Holiday Commission, where he served for twelve years. Last year he helped to create the group “Ridgefield Allies, What Can I Do, What Can We Do,” and participated in the Ridgefield Playhouse Diversity Film Series.
The full celebration will be available on the The Ridgefield Playhouse YouTube channel on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 18th beginning at 11am and will be available for viewing anytime thereafter.
For more information, visit The Ridgefield Playhouse website ridgefieldplayhouse.org. The Ridgefield Playhouse is a non-profit performing arts center located at 80 East Ridge, parallel to Main Street, Ridgefield, CT.