Heading into their fifth year, the San Ramon Valley Diversity Coalition is bringing celebrations of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday to local residents, with an open mic event scheduled for Monday night.
"In the past, every year on Martin Luther King Day, we go find other communities to walk around and go to those events," said Sridhar Verose, one of the coalition's founding members and vice mayor of San Ramon.
The event marks the coalition's first celebration of King, to celebrate his life and work and how they inspired the efforts of the coalition's members, such as Verose.
"My personal goal is that everyone should be treated with respect and with dignity, irrespective of their race, color, gender, religion, or political affiliation," Verose said. "I think it's all of our responsibility to commit to build a sustainable, equitable community, so we can have a peaceful community."
Verose said this worldview has guided his work in numerous domains, but particularly when it comes to community building and celebrating diversity in San Ramon.
"About four years back we started looking at our community. San Ramon is a very diverse community," Verose said. "We keep hearing from many of the community members about the needs and necessities, especially with a diverse community across many different dimensions, from age, to ethnicity, to race," he continued.
Verose and others in the coalition, which was the brainchild of former San Ramon Mayor Bill Clark, formed and continued the organization with feedback from the community in mind, as well as with the purpose of generating further community input and feedback.
Providing a safe and welcoming space for all of San Ramon's diverse communities to share their insights and voice their needs is a key part of the coalition's mission overall.
While the coalition seeks to address the needs of the population across all ages, with an emphasis on the city's growing senior population, Verose said that the upcoming event is also meant to serve as a way to continue passing King's legacy down and inspiring young people who are generations apart from the civil rights movement of the 20th century.
"I would say, especially for youth, this is the best stage that they can come join and share their viewpoints about how Martin Luther King Day reflects their life, how it impacted them," Verose said. "For example for me, I got into whatever community service I'm doing, and the biggest part of it is that I got into it by being inspired."
Monday night's open mic is hosted by the San Ramon Valley Diversity Coalition, along with District 16 Assembleymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen, the City of San Ramon and the Town of Danville.
Verose said that in the future he hopes for Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in San Ramon can be expanded to a full art festival, but that the small, one-night event will see its fair share of creativity from local residents.
"As part of the program, we do have a small performance, a dance performance, and for the open mic itself, our poet laureate of San Ramon is going to join us," Verose said. "In the future, my vision is to make this an art festival, so they (artists) can present their art relevant to this whole thing. Art is the best way to connect to the people, I believe."
The upcoming open mic is set for Martin Luther King Jr. Day today (Jan. 17) from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at City Hall in San Ramon. The coalition invites residents to share poetry, spoken word pieces and speeches on the impact of King's legacy on their lives.