20 years later, this West Chester holiday event continues to fulfill a dream

The 20th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration is more than just a ceremony, it is a community tribute to diversity and inclusion, offiials said.

Live the Dream: Our Declaration of Unity is a formal observation of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday hosted by the people of West Chester and Liberty townships. Gail Webster, a resident of West Chester, had the idea for a local event in the mid-1990s after finding none north of downtown Cincinnati.

“Each year, around the MLK holiday, I would get this very uneasy feeling that something was amiss, or lacking, in our town. Why didn’t somebody do something?” Webster remembers asking herself.

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Webster did just that. The coming Jan. 21 celebration marks the 20th anniversary of her dream.

As usual, local residents will begin the half-mile march at 10:30 a.m. at the clock tower on The Square @ Union Centre, 9285 Centre Pointe Road. The march circles around the MidPointe Library to Lakota West High School, where participants can enjoy music and an awards program followed by a free luncheon.

Live the Dream: Our Declaration of Unity began in 1999 with a student contest to choose a name for the annual observance. A year later, another winning contestant designed the current logo and participants were invited to mix and mingle over refreshments. The event has continued to grow and evolve, according to West Chester Twp. spokeswoman Barb Wilson.

“On paper, the march may seem to be just a re-enactment of the marches of the civil rights movement,” Wilson said. “From personal experience, however, participating with your neighbors from all walks of life and taking the time to reflect on our past and who we want to be as a community moving forward, can be enriching and powerful. It is actually a really moving experience.”

Webster said she’s been motivated to keep King’s legacy alive for future generations, so the student contest has remained a staple of the event. This year’s theme is, “Common Ground,” and students in grades K-12 living in the Lakota district were invited to enter pieces of art and writing. There were 495 entries, and winners were chosen in 14 categories. All entries will be on display, and all winners recognized at the ceremony following the march.

Anyone interested in singing with this year’s intergenerational community choir — all talent levels welcomed — is encouraged to attend at least one rehearsal:

• Thursday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 7393 Dimmick Road

• Monday, Jan. 21 from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m. at Lakota West High School, 8940 Union Centre Blvd.

For more details, visit the official Live the Dream: Our Declaration of Unity website at livethedreamwcl.weebly.com and Facebook page at facebook.com/LiveTheDreamWCL

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