SGI-USA Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Promotes Nonviolence

The Redeem the DreamThe "Redeem the Dream" MLK Day event in Santa Monica, CA

From January 19-21, people across America gathered to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, commemorating the birth of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his nonviolent activism for racial equality that spearheaded the US Civil Rights movement. This year, MLK Day was observed on January 21.

Together with the City of Santa Monica and the West Side Coalition, SGI-USA cosponsored two MLK Day events at the World Peace Ikeda Auditorium in Santa Monica, California.

The first event, titled "Redeem the Dream," marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's landmark "I Have a Dream" speech in which he made an impassioned call for an end to racism and equal rights for all (on August 28, 1963). Featuring inspirational readings, speakers, dance and music, the multiethnic interfaith program on January 19th was attended by Santa Monica's former mayor Nat Trives, who was the city's first African American mayor.

younger participants at the VOV exhibitionsA table for younger participants at the VOV exhibition

The second MLK Day event, a musical tribute, took place on January 20. The concert was attended by some 900 people.

The spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of nonviolence was echoed at the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson, where SGI-USA youth members and the Buddhists for Peace Club co-organized the Victory Over Violence (VOV) exhibition from January 19-22.

Over the four days, speakers from various fields shared their insight on topics related to violence, ranging from the power of nonviolence, cyberbullying and domestic violence to the role of community in addressing prejudice and discrimination. Visitors to the exhibition also took part in small group discussions, left comments on a "writing wall" and signed the VOV Pledge for Nonviolence.

VOV exhibition viewersVOV exhibition viewers engaging in discussion

Arizona State Senator Steve Farley and Tucson Vice Mayor Regina Romero attended the exhibition opening, where Dr. Richard Ruiz, head of the Department of Learning and Sociocultural Studies at UA, spoke about "Creating a Language of Peace and Reconciliation" in the United States. Tucson City Mayor Jonathan Rothschild also sent a message.

The exhibition is part of an SGI-USA youth-sponsored Victory Over Violence (VOV) initiative that was formed in response to the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado. The campaign aims to empower young people to identify and counteract the root causes of violence in their daily lives by promoting nonviolence through dialogue.

[Adapted from articles in the January 29 and February 2, 2013, issues of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan, and a report from SGI-USA; photos courtesy of Seikyo Shimbun]

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