Rita Coburn

Rita Coburn, a Peabody and Emmy Award-Winning director, writer, and producer with nearly four decades in radio, television and film, will highlight Wisconsin’s 39th State Tribute and Ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, Jan. 21, noon, at the State Capitol Rotunda in Madison.

Themed “Truth Is Marching,” this annual public event is free and open to the public and is the oldest official MLK commemoration in the nation. The event will once again be broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television and will celebrate in words and music the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Truth Is Marching” will honor women as pioneers, change makers and innovators in today’s world. Coburn began her career as a producer and writer for various news outlets across the U.S., and went on to produce for the likes of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah Radio, Apollo Live! And Walt Disney Productions. In 2016, “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” which was co-directed and co-produced by Coburn, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Festival, and went on to win a Peabody Award in 2017.

Through Coburn’s work, she uniquely addresses topics from a multi-generational lens with a passion for impacting others through the untold stories of prominent figures and key ideals relevant to African-American culture. Coburn (under the then name of Rita Coburn Whack) is also the author of “Meant to Be,” published by Random House/Strivers Row in 2001. The Rita Coburn Whack Papers collection, containing 40-plus oral history interviews and audiovisual materials from public radio work and from documentaries created for public television, is currently housed at various institutions across the United States.

On behalf of Africasong Communications, Executive Director and Producer Dr. Jonathan Overby, Wisconsin’s Governor’s Office and the 2019 MLK Planning Group, the 2019 event will feature an all-women’s mass choir comprised of vocalists from across the state with Music Director Becca Grant and Tamera Stanley conducting.

Over the years, Wisconsin’s MLK ceremony has featured many prominent leaders as guest speakers including former presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, Ambassador Attallah Shabazz-the eldest daughter of Malcolm X, Mamie Till-Mobley-the mother of Emmitt Till, Civil Rights activist Rev. C.T. Vivian, Ruby Dee, Cecily Tyson, Clifton Davis, Paul Winfield, Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, Roland Martin, Van Jones, and more.