Milwaukee hosts 30th annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Monday, January 20th is Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- and on Sunday, the city of Milwaukee worked to continue its tradition of honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy.

This year marks Milwaukee's 30th annual tribute that marks Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

"We're especially honored that we in Milwaukee -- that this entire community has kept this tribute alive for all that length of time," Paul Mathews, the President and CEO of the Marcus Center said.

It's a streak matched only by Atlanta -- where Dr. King was born.

"This is not only a tribute to Dr. King but it's a way to celebrate and honor the increasingly more multicultural community that Milwaukee has," Mathews said.

High schooler and speech contest winner Lashawanda Anderson says she leaned on Dr. King's ideals to help her persevere and find her own voice.

"Being raised by a drug-addicted aunt and other abusive family members put me in predicaments which were to say the least, terrible. At a very early age I learned the value of love through imagination and my imagination became my refuge," Anderson said.

Spurning opportunities to lash out in violence, Anderson says she instead turned to writing.

"I am not defeated by anger. I am not overcome by hatred. The very thing that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for I am," Anderson said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Anderson can serve as inspirations for the youth of this city.

"There are too many young people who are involved in drugs or gangs-- who are inflicting damage on themselves and others in this community, but we have a way to fight back. The way we are fighting back is right through this competition and the young people who are here today," Mayor Barrett said.

More than 500 area students participated in Sunday's tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.