The 33rd annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., birthday celebration was held last Monday, January 21, 2019, at 9 a.m. in the Oxnard Room of the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, 800 Hobson Way.

The keynote speaker was be Falilah “Aisha” Bilal, Senior Trainer with The National Black Women’s Justice Institute. Falilah has worked joyously for over 30 years creating innovative, relevant evidence based strategies to transform, empower and develop individuals, systems, organizations and contemporary thought. Falilah’s work is centered in healing practices, empowering youth, self-discovery and issues that systemically impact groups of people.

FaIilah was raised by parents who are pioneers in the Black Power movement of the 1960s, which instilled within her a foundation dedicated to helping others and a love for all humanity.

At 14 years old, Falilah participated as a youth leader in healing retreats with the Black Woman’s Health project, where she was introduced to basic healing techniques, group facilitation skills, and participated as a teen leader guiding inter- generational healing experiences. Ms. Bilal continued to deepen her skills as a youth leader by participating in numerous youth programs and leadership trainings. As a leader in this field, she was invited to present at the United Nation’s Beijing Plus Five World Conference on Women’s Issues.

Currently Falilah serves as a Senior Trainer with the National Black Women’s Justice Institute and a Radical Healer with Flourish Agenda. In addition, Ms. Bilal directs her own consulting company where she provides trainings and executive leadership to local and national agencies, companies and programs. Recently, she served as the Executive Director for M.I.S.S.S.E.Y. raising over $2 million to support sexually exploited children and young adults. Ms. Bilal holds a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies and a B.A. in Theater Arts and Child Psychology from San Francisco State University.

On Monday, January 21, 2019, the day started with a Freedom March from Plaza Park at Fifth and “C” Streets. Community members, elected officials, and spiritual leaders assembled at the park for prayer at 8 a.m.; the march started at 8:15 a.m. and proceed to the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. Transportation was available to Plaza Park from the Performing Arts Center parking lot for the march. The program started at 9 a.m. and featured youth speakers, scripture readings, and gospel musical selections by the MLK Celebration Choir, which was directed by Dr. Angela Timmons. Exhibits, refreshments, and vendor booths were set up in the Ventura Room of the Performing Arts Center.

From its inception in 1986, the MLK observance program has attempted to spotlight the positive achievements and accomplishments of the youth of our community. In previous years, the Monday program has drawn approximately 500 people from throughout Ventura County and Santa Barbara. It was necessary to cancel the program only once, on January 17, 1994, due to an earthquake. As in previous years, this year’s program was an inspirational, informative, and enjoyable experience and a celebration of Rev. Dr. King’s life and legacy.