A week of events in Billings will celebrate the "dawning of a new day" that incorporates commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the inauguration of Barack Obama as America's first black president.
Melvin Terry, president of the Black History Foundation of Billings and Yellowstone County, said the new-day theme is meant to bring together social and racial justice successes of the past and a hope for more in the future.
"This idea and dream is starting to come about," Terry said. "We, as people, we really do get that heartwarming sensation that we're all basically the same and that we can all love each other as a people no matter what nationality we are."
Rick Lucero is the keynote speaker for Monday's evening celebration at Lincoln Center. He will also help lead a workshop Saturday and speak at an interfaith service Sunday.
Born in Billings, Lucero is of African-American, Mexican-American, American Indian and Irish descent. He graduated from Senior High and attended Eastern Montana College before graduating from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor's degree in education and Rocky Mountain College with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
Lucero, 54, lives in Grant Prairie, Texas, where he owns a consulting firm. His career has been varied. He ran a methadone maintenance treatment facility, was principal of a charter high school and helped develop a procurement system for the Dallas Cowboys football team, along with other business ventures.
The focus of Lucero's career path has always been to serve people who suffered - economically, socially and politically - by being ethnically different from the majority.
As a teenager, Lucero was propelled into the national racial debate when he played American Legion baseball in Billings.
It was August 1961 and the Billings team was making its second consecutive appearance in the national championship tournament.
The team lost its tournament opener to Phoenix and faced Jackson, Miss. The Mississippi coaches balked at playing a team with a nonwhite member. The coaches left the Hastings, Neb., tournament, but the team stayed and played Billings. Billings won the game, 4-3, on a go-ahead double by Lucero in the top of the ninth, according to the Aug. 29, 1961, edition of The Billings Gazette.
As a context for the times, the front-page headline two days later was "Tradition Shattered," as nine black students enrolled in four previously white high schools in Atlanta.
Although great strides have been made in social justice, effort is still needed, Terry said.
"The whole thing Dr. Martin Luther King was trying to say back then was that one day, all people would be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood," Terry said. "As we come up to 2009, that's actually what we're still trying to do. We're trying to get everyone together. We're all the same, but we all have different prejudices and we're trying to break that."
Coming together is one of the things that Monday's downtown candlelight vigil and march to Lincoln Center signifies.
"We want to have peace with everyone," Terry said. "No matter where we are, it takes all of us make this work. There's no individual. There's no 'big I and little you.' It takes everyone to achieve peace."
Saturday, January 17, 2009
•TAKING ACTION; MAKING CHANGE Community Workshop. Hosted by Not In Our Town Billings and MSU Billings. Student Union Ballroom, MSU Billings. 9:30 am to 4 pm. Dr. King used a philosophy of Direct Action for social justice; President Elect Obama has a background in community organizing and has asked all Americans to be a part of making a more perfect union. This workshop will offer the basics for community organizing including: direct action campaigns, strategy, and power analysis. Indian Taco's for lunch. $10 registration fee; scholarships available.
•MLKJ UNITY DINNER. Hosted by the Black Heritage Foundation. First Congregational Church (310 N.27th Street). 6 pm. This annual fundraiser supports the work of the Black Heritage Foundation throughout the year. Will feature speakers and entertainment. Tickets are $25. Call Melvin Terry at 690-3644 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets or information.
•Sunday, January 18, 2009
•INTERFAITH SERVICE. Hosted by Not In Our Town Billings. Billings Uniterian Universalist Fellowship (2032 Central Avenue). 5 pm. Will feature a performance of Dr. King's speeches, music, readings, and prayer. Free to the public
Monday, January 19, 2009: Martin Luther King Holiday
•NATIONAL BELL RINGING CEREMONY. Hosted by MSU Billings. Peaks to Plains Park (Corner of Rim rock &Normal Ave). 9:45 am. As part of a national ceremony, bells across the country are ringed at noon (EST). Afterward, there will be a march to the Student Union Building followed by speakers and entertainment.
•CANDLELIGHT VIGIL. Hosted by the Black Heritage Foundation. Yellowstone County Courthouse Lawn. 6pm. Will feature a short program, followed by a march to the Licoln Center for the MLKJ Celebration. Bring your own candle, flashlight, or glow stick.
•MLKJ CELEBRATION. Hosted by the Black Heritage Foundation. Lincoln Center (415 N. 30th Street). Annual program will feature keynote speaker: Rick Lucero. Entertainment will include: Columbus High School Choir, music by Rod Dotson, All Nations Chior, and more…
Tuesday, January 20, 2009: Inauguration Day
•INAUGURATION WATCH PARTY. Hosted by Yes We Can Billings. Everyone is invited to come watch the Inauguration on a big screen in the back room of McCormicks Cafe;, 2419 Montana Avenue. You can order food in the café and bring it back to enjoy while you watch. The Inauguration is set to begin at 11:30 EST (9:30 MST).
•EVENING OF HOPE INAUGURAL CELEBRATION. Hosted by Yes We Can Billings. Did you have to work during the Inauguration Ceremony. Want to come celebrate Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States with other Obama Supporters. Come join us for an Inaugural replay, drinks, and conversation. McKenzie River Pizza Company (Heights) 6:00 pm.