MLK Day Celebration to Commemorate its 27th Anniversary in Arizona

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Event in Collaboration with the HeroZona Foundation and American Legion Post 65’s Play It Forward Program

The HeroZona Foundation and the American Legion Travis L. Williams Post 65 will host a special MLK Day Celebration recognizing the success of the “Play It Forward for the Arts” program at Post 65 (1624 E. Broadway Rd.) in Phoenix on Monday, January 20, at 3 p.m. The Celebration will honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and also recognize Senior Pastor Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr. from First Institutional Baptist Church, who was a driving force behind creating the MLK Day holiday in Arizona. It will also commemorate one year of the “Play It Forward for the Arts” program in Arizona.

“This year, we celebrate 27 years since Arizona adopted MLK Day as a state holiday, and I’m thrilled to honor Senior Pastor Dr. Reverend Stewart, who was the driving force behind the vote and recognition,” says U.S. Army Veteran, Play It Forward Program Creator and HeroZona Foundation Founder, Alan “AP” Powell. “One year ago on MLK Day, Pastor Stewart challenged our community with doing more for the residents of zip code 85040. The Herozona Foundation and Post 65 responded to that challenge, launching an effort with local schools and community partners, bringing underserved students to the arts.”

The HeroZona Foundation and members of the Travis L. Williams American Legion Post 65 spearheaded the creation of the ”Play It Forward For the Arts” program, exposing students to the arts at an early age, and giving them a head start with opportunities to learn, create and grow. ”Play It Forward” programs are supported by numerous community partners who advocate for the arts.

The first “Play It Forward for the Arts” engagement was held in early 2019, with high school students from Phoenix Union High School District attending August Wilson’s award-winning civil rights play “Two Trains Running” at the Herberger Theatre. The second “Play It Forward” event brought elementary students from the Roosevelt Elementary School District to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in a concert performance by the Phoenix Symphony, and the most recent program was a Pinkfong Baby Shark mini show and family resource fair at The Academies at South Mountain, which helped families prepare students for preschool and kindergarten, and was attended by nearly two thousand children and family members.    

“The Phoenix Suns are proud to support the Play It Forward program, which is committed to the development of youth in our state,” said Phoenix Suns President & CEO Jason Rowley. “I’m honored to join several true American heroes and local community leaders as we celebrate the promise of a brighter future for the next generation of leaders throughout Arizona.”

APS Chairman, President & CEO Jeff Guldner also lauded the community program. “APS appreciates being part of the Herozona Foundation’s effort to increase access to arts and culture experiences to students of all backgrounds through the Play It Forward program,” he said. “We look forward to continued engagement and seeing it expand in the future.”    

Speakers at the MLK celebration will include the current National Commander of the American Legion, James W. “Bill” Oxford, who will speak about the important work of the American Legion in local communities across America, as illustrated by Phoenix’s Post 65 spearheading the “Play It Forward” program. Other speakers will include Dr. Stewart, who will comment on Dr. King’s legacy and address continuing support for undeserved Phoenix neighborhoods.

Following the celebration at American Legion Post 65, the Phoenix Suns will host community leaders for an MLK Day celebration in the Ring of Honor suite, which will include on-court recognition of Rev. Stewart during half time and throughout the game. The commemoration of MLK Day is being brought back to the Suns Arena 27 years after approval of the MLK Day state holiday in Arizona in honor of the first gathering in downtown Phoenix at the same location in 1992.

“With our amazing arts community in Arizona, “Play it Forward for the Arts” is only limited by our imaginations,” said American Legion Post 65 member, retired Navy Rear Admiral Hal Pittman. “We love supporting these kids in their growth and appreciation of the arts.”

Arizona is the only state to institute the MLK holiday by vote of the people in 1992, after original initiatives to create the holiday were defeated in the early 1990s. After the holiday was approved by popular vote in November of 1992, the first MLK holiday in Arizona was observed with a major gathering at the American West Arena (now Talking Stick Arena) in downtown Phoenix. That celebration filled the arena and was attended by numerous celebrities, including Stevie Wonder and Rosa Parks.

To learn more about the HeroZona Foundation’s programs, visit

About the HeroZona Foundation:
The HeroZona Foundation has a strong focus on veteran initiatives and honoring those who have served our country and their family members. The nonprofit’s name reflects that messaging to focus on empowering and celebrating America’s veterans. The HeroZona Foundation’s annual HeroZona National Veteran Summit created a multi-day networking experience to improve America’s support of veteran companies through workshops, networking, entrepreneurial connections, and seminars. The summit will return to Arizona for a third year in November 2020. Other programs include the Bridge Forum, Phoenix Tools 4 School, Honor Walk, Veterans Reach to Teach, Voting for Veterans and Play It Forward. For more information, visit

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Kassidy McDonald
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