Celebration Committee History
In 1987, a group of citizens, many recently transferred to Mesa, Arizona from Culver City, California as employees of Hughes Helicopters, gathered together in the home of Warren Simms to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The following year, Warren and Chellette Henderson led a group of citizens to coordinate the first MLK Breakfast in Mesa. Even without an official holiday, the celebration continued to grow over the years to expand to include
a march and a festival. By 1991, the group of concerned citizens began working to establish a holiday which encountered much opposition. The initiative was defeated in 1992 at the ballot box. But thanks to the passion and commitment of these leaders, the community came to realize the importance of King's legacy and the need to officially celebrate the holiday in our community.
In 1996, the voters of Mesa established a citywide holiday recognizing the leadership of Dr. King. The victory did not come without challenges...but the victory came! Today, the committee continues to coordinate the celebration that is enjoyed by thousands of Mesa residents and has grown to include citizens across many cities in Arizona. We proudly embrace the theme that represents that unity -- Many Faces, One Community. The march that once symbolized the struggle to have an official holiday is now a parade that celebrates the unity of the community. The fight for a holiday was never about a 'day off,' but was about a day to remember, a day to celebrate, a day to recognize, and a day to serve others.
How do we remember, celebrate, recognize and server others?
The Mesa Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee’s celebratory events are designed to bring community residents together for a weekend of remembering a spiritual man who believed in God, non-violence and loving others.
The MLK, Jr. Community Gala is a time to recognize the work of Dr. King, the legacy he left behind, and his message that is still relevant today. We also recognize those who exhibit the characteristics of Dr. King in their everyday lives with the Veora E. Johnson Spirit of Unity Awards.
The accomplishments of students, who through the expression of their understanding of Dr. King's philosophy and ideas are celebrated via the MLK, Jr. Creative Arts, Writing, Oratory and Media Contest, the Student of the Year Award, and the MLK Scholarship Winners presentation.
The MLK, Jr. Annual Parade and Festival gives Mesa residents and the valley the opportunity to remember our history as a city, celebrate the progress made over the years, and recognize the work that continues to be accomplished.
The MLK Basketball Classic provides an additional opportunity to remind others of the work of Dr. King and his contemporaries. The Mesa Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. Celebration Committee has made a commitment to serve the community by seeking ways to give back and work within the community to Build a Better Mesa.