Rev. Allan Boesak, a black South African clergyman frequently jailed for his opposition to apartheid, will receive the Martin Luther King Jr. International Award at a dinner Jan. 19 celebrating the slain civil rights leader's birthday and culminating 11 days of "King Week" activities in Los Angeles.
"Without question, Dr. Boesak is one of the leading exponents of Martin Luther King's thought," said Mark Ridley-Thomas, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Los Angeles chapter, sponsor of King Week.
"He has given witness (to King's philosophy of nonviolence) with his work and with his life," Ridley-Thomas added. "He provides tremendous and creative leadership at a time when it is sorely needed in South Africa and here in the United States."
Boesak, 40, is president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and a founder of the multiracial United Democratic Front coalition of anti-apartheid groups. He will give the keynote speech at the King birthday dinner celebration at the Westin Bonaventure.
He is the second black South African to win the award, bestowed last year on Bishop Desmond M. Tutu.
King Week activities began Friday with a concert featuring Tony award-winning actress Jennifer Holliday at the Wiltern Theater and will continue through Jan. 19 with a series of events, including an interfaith prayer breakfast, an art and essay contest and a play depicting a fictional meeting between King and Malcolm X. Jan. 19 is a federal and state holiday.
"Each year we've expanded and diversified King Week activities in an effort to do a number of things to make this festival a celebration," Ridley-Thomas said. "This year we will have a food and clothing drive in order to raise the issue of the plight of the homeless in Los Angeles County. With 50,000 homeless people, the county has distinguished itself as the homeless capital of America."