Wisconsin’s 2016 MLK Tribute

State of Wisconsin  36th Annual “Tribute & Ceremony” honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monday, January 18, 2016 at 12 Noon State Capitol Rotunda in Madison, Wisconsin.  


MLK’16Printed Program

Watch The Enter Program Online http://video.wpt.org/video/2365643507

Post MLK 2016 Event Press Coverage

Highlights 36th Annual MLK Tribute and Ceremony with Guest Speaker Aja Brown, Mayor of Compton, CA

By David Dahmer – Jan 19, 2016


“Transformative change is not just about access, it’s about creating more opportunities. Transformative leaders create opportunities for the next person because continuing the status quo is simply not enough,” said Aja Brown, mayor of Compton, California. “It is not acceptable to just have a seat at the table, but pull up a few chairs for the next person so they can create opportunities while they’re there.”

Brown was the keynote speaker at the 36th annual “Tribute and Ceremony” honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Capitol Rotunda yesterday. The theme of the celebration was “Stand Up, Stand Out – A Call to Community Service.”

This free event is the oldest official state ceremony in the nation dedicated to Martin Luther King and is produced and directed by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Dr. Jonathan Overby. It was started in 1981 by then governor Republican Lee Sherman Dreyfus and continued by every governor since. Overby once again served as emcee of the event.

“It’s a call not only to reflect on Dr. King’s life but more importantly it’s a call for each of us to stand up for those in our great nation who cannot stand up for themselves – the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised,” Overby told the crowd. “I invite you today in the spirit of Dr. King to embrace the stranger, to transverse to some of our nation’s finest moments when we offer hospitality to those who are different … not just because of today’s lingering hatred, but in spite of it.

“Let us stand up here in Wisconsin and reconcile our differences … our mistrust of each other – be they the men or women in blue or a young man of color walking in his neighborhood – hoodie fully deployed — or an international student whose non-Western attire transports us to a place where suspicion and fear linger. Let us stand up and stand out wherever we face hatred,” Overby added. “Today, in the spirit of good community, let us stand up for those very principles that Dr. King stood up for and stood out for. Let us all stand up for inclusion and let’s call Wisconsin – which is our home – a place where we can all invest in and share in in the spirit of Dr. King.”

Overby presented the 2016 MLK Heritage Awards — honoring outstanding work in social justice — to YWCA Every Town girls camp and musician Richard Davis.


Jonathan Overby (left) and Richard Davis

Davis, an internationally known bassist and professor of bass (European Classical and Jazz), jazz history and combo improvisation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has worked with a variety of famous musicians including Sarah Vaughan, Eric Dolphy, Don Sebesky, Oliver Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Miles Davis, and many others.

“I grew up listening to Martin Luther King on the television and the radio. I believed every word he said, it’s just that I knew it would take a lot of work to make it work. If you think humanity can lie dormant, you’re wrong,” Davis told the crowd. “That’s why we’re here today and I encourage you all to make your best effort to love. I encourage you to think like the masterful personality of Martin Luther King. He was way ahead of us – far ahead of us – but he knew which way we needed to be directed towards.”

Brown made history as Compton’s youngest mayor ever to be elected. She won the election by a landslide, defeating both incumbent mayor Eric J. Perrodin and former mayor Omar Bradley. In her keynote speech, Brown addressed distinguished leaders and dignitaries and those in positions of power. “We must ask ourselves a hard question: Do we seek to be only in power with an “I” or empower with an “E”? The modern civil rights movement to me is about impact, empowerment, access and true wealth creation and less about privilege, class, hierarchy and assimilation,” Brown said.

When we consider history, Brown continued, privileged groups seldom give up privilege voluntarily. “Many of us were raised to grow up, get an education, get a great job, disperse and never to return to the very same communities that invested in us,” she said. “The result? An entire generation that has no desire to feel any responsibility to return to the very neighborhoods and communities that invested in their success. The net result is a zero-sum game for the community.”

Brown said that we are in desperate need of a paradigm shift. She said, “To the collective, if we don’t consciously make a decision to make a change in how we define success, appropriately assign value to service, assess the full impact of privilege, and strategically create wealth …. What will the next 50 years of the civil rights movement look like?

“Change is never easy,” she added. “Let us be committed to building up the next generation of leadership and passing on the reins today. Let us all do our part to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.”

Zaria Roller, a 12-year-old freshman from Verona High School Exploration Academy, delivered Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to close the ceremony.

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.

All Photos courtesy of Madison365


Plain Talk: Tributes help keep Martin Luther King’s spirit alive

I won’t be able to make this noon’s Martin Luther King Jr. tribute — the oldest in the nation —in the state Capitol’s rotunda. It’s one of the few I’ve missed in the past 36 years.

It’s always an impressive, music-filled program paying tribute to the country’s greatest civil rights leader and it’s been produced all these years by the talented Jonathan Overby and broadcast by WHA-TV throughout the state. The Capital Times’ philanthropic arm, the Evjue Foundation, has long been one of the major sponsors.

The late Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus proclaimed the first celebration back in 1981 and every governor since has done likewise, and been present for the ceremony. There will be bands and choruses on hand and Aja Brown, the young black mayor of Compton, Calif., will deliver the keynote.

My favorite part of the program, however, has always been the reading of the Rev. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by a Madison middle school student. This year Zaria Roller, a 12-year-old girl from Verona, will be doing the honors.

Overby’s state observance is one of two celebrations that Madisonians can attend today. The other is the official city of Madison and Dane County joint ceremony at the Overture Center. A “Freedom Songs Sing-in” will start at 5 p.m. in Overture’s rotunda, followed by a program at 6 in the Capitol Theater. Ernest Green, one of the students known as the “Little Rock Nine,” who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957, will speak.

The celebration also includes Mayor Paul Soglin’s and County Executive Joe Parisi’s presentation of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award.

Those of us who lived through the turbulent 1960s know how important it is to keep Dr. King’s promises alive.

Aja Brown, mayor of Compton, California, urged people “not to turn a blind eye to the political process,” addressing Wisconsin’s Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute ceremony on Monday.

Speaking to a crowd gathered in the state Capitol rotunda, Brown encouraged people to vote in elections at every level and to involve themselves in representative government beyond the polling booth. 

“It’s time that everyday people mobilize their power,” Brown said, standing in front of a handful of elected officials including Gov. Scott Walker and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin. 

Earlier in the ceremony, as a chorus sang “We Shall Overcome,” friends and family of Tony Robinson stood on a balcony above the ceremony, fists raised, holding a banner that read “Justice for Tony.”

Robinson, an unarmed, black 19-year-old, was fatally shot by a Madison police officer in March 2015. The shooting, and the Dane County district attorney’s decision not to file charges against Officer Matt Kenny, fueled unrest throughout the city among community members already frustrated by racial disparities in Madison and throughout the country.

“Although it is very personal to us, it’s also, on a national scale and international scale, things like this are happening across the world,” said Lorien Carter, Robinson’s aunt. “It’s a reminder, especially on this particular day — years ago we were fighting for the injustices that were occurring and for our rights, and it still feels today that a lot of that is still very relevant, unfortunately.”

Carter said she wanted people to go home and talk at their kitchen tables about the fact that racial injustices are still occurring in 2015 and 2016 — to keep it in their hearts and minds.

Protesting can be effective, Carter said, but it can only go so far without action behind it. Robinson’s grandmother, Sharon Irwin, likened the fight for racial equality to tearing down the Berlin Wall — the result comes not from one action, but from the actions of many.

“Ultimately, it is us that are deciding our own fate,” she said. “Get out there and put your voice out there. Go to these town hall meetings, go and see what your elected officials are talking about. See if they truly represent you. Because they can make change, as long as we’re demanding it.”


For More Information Contact:

Dr. Jonathan L. Overby, Executive Producer/Host

c/o Wisconsin Public Radio – USA, 821 University Ave

Madison, WI 53706  608 263-4104, Cell 608 279-7000

Toll Free 877 279-7077, Fax 608 263-9763

www.wpr.org/wisconsins-36th-annual-2016-mlk-tribute; www.wpt.org/black_culture

Guest Speaker

The Honorable Aja Brown, Mayor of Compton, CA                

(Mayor Brown’s first name is pronounced “Asia”)

…her remarkable story from NPR’s Code Switch http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/11/04/242956747/new-mayor-asks-compton-what-can-brown-do-for-you)

Kenosha Wisconsin’s Tremper High School Wind Ensemble

University of Illinois Black Chorus

Presentation of the State Proclamation

Leotha & Tamera Stanley

Color Guard, 2nd Isthmian Highlanders

With the theme, Stand Up, Stand Out – A Call To Community Service, is a celebration of Dr. King’s life and legacy through words and music and, it has the distinguished honor of being the oldest official state commemoration for Dr. King in our nation. This proud event occurs in the seat of our state government while serving as a powerful and symbolic statement to many around Wisconsin, the U.S. and the world.

Wisconsin’s King celebration has featured many prominent leaders as guest speakers, including actors Ruby Dee, Cecily Tyson, Clifton Davis and Paul Winfield, Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, Ambassador Attallah Shabazz – eldest daughter of Malcolm X, Mamie Till-Mobley – mother of Emmitt Till, Civil Rights activist Rev. C.T. Vivian, Congresswoman and presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, Ohio State Law Professor Dr. Michelle Alexander, Roland Martin and, CNN Commentator Van Jones.

Broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio, http://www.wpr.org and on Wisconsin Public Television, http://www.wpt.org – live-streamed on www.wpt.org and simulcast on W.O.R.T. Radio, Madison, WI.  The one-hour highlights broadcast airs on the WPT main channel at 9pm.

Sponsored by American Family Insurance, Alliant Energy, CUNA Mutual Group Foundation, The Evjue Foundation, Madison Community Foundation, United Way of Dane County, Unity Health, Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio, W.O.R.T. Radio and generous individuals.

State of Wisconsin MLK Tribute & Ceremony

is a 2016 Production of Africasong Communications, Inc.


2016 MLK State Planning Committee

Deborah Biddle, Chair

Rev. Vern Visick

Patrick Li-Barbour 

Keith Hirata

Amy T. Overby


January 17, Don’t Miss the MLK Sunday Concert…



Watch Here For Details on Wisconsin’s 37th MLK “Tribute & Ceremony”, Monday, January 16, 2017