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Madison and Dane County to hold 35th annual MLK Day celebration with noted civil rights activist

Madison and Dane County to hold 35th annual MLK Day celebration with noted civil rights activist

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The King Coalition of Madison and Dane County will hold its 35th annual King Holiday Observance celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day with keynote speaker Joyce Ann Ladner.

The coalition will host several events commemorating the holiday before the main observance takes place at the Overture Center for the Arts’ Capitol Theater in Downtown Madison from 6 to 7:45 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and city of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway will present the Madison-Dane County Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award.

Ladner, 76, a civil rights activist, author and sociologist, has firsthand experience with the civil rights movement in Mississippi, according to her biography. She worked alongside Bayard Rustin and other civil rights leaders to organize the March on Washington in 1963. She also worked with civil rights pioneers Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker.

Ladner was on the stage with Martin Luther King Jr. when he gave the “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1963.

Her book, “Tomorrow’s Tomorrow: The Black Woman” (1971), was the first book published in African American women’s studies, according to the coalition, and is now considered a classic of the genre.

This year’s MLK Day celebration in Madison will continue the event’s tradition of kicking off with a “Freedom Songs Sing-in” in the Rotunda of the Overture Center from 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., according to the coalition’s press release.

Other Madison and Dane County coalition events include the 33rd annual Free Community Dinner from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, at Gordon Dining and Event Center; the MLK Ecumenical Service from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19 at Mount Zion Baptist Church; and the MLK Youth Call to Service from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, at the Madison Central Library.

People interested in attending the Youth Call to Service should pre-register by sending an email to


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