Members of the Valley community took time to reflect on the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and the future of his dream in the Valley during a special presentation on the steps of the Imperial County Superior Courthouse on Monday afternoon.
Roughly 75 people gathered for the event that featured a multitude of speakers, live music, a dance performance and more.
Calexico Councilman Luis Castro cited the importance of the holiday and referencing history, mentioned that Calexico was the first city in the Valley to recognize the civil rights leader by naming a street after him in the late 1960s.
Second Baptist Church Pastor Mark Anderson reminded the audience that, “This is not a black holiday. This is a people’s holiday,” citing a quote by Coretta Scott King.
He added that only four men in history have been honored by having their birthday commemorated with national recognition in the U.S., and it seemed fitting to celebrate Martin Luther King Day the same day the first black president of the United States was sworn back into office.
“Today we celebrate men and women all over the Valley. Those that have gone on and become doctors and lawyers, teachers and scientists, laborers and musicians and writers and architects, ministers and senators and congressmen, assemblywomen and now, yes even a president of the United States of America,” Anderson said.
“These people didn’t stand around blaming each other for the things that went wrong, but they said from within themselves that I shall overcome,” he continued. “They proceeded to accept the challenge and invoke their right to achieve their goals and serve our community and our families.”
Music filled the street in front of the courthouse as a moving rendition of the song “What the World Needs Now is Love” was played with the audience clapping along. At one point, members of the crowd were urged to turn to the person next to them to express their love to each other.
Praise dancers from Solid Rock Christian ministries also performed at the event, and Tammy and Alisha Summer-Nazareno shared unique correspondence between their grandmother and Coretta Scott King.
Their mother, Rosalind Esteen Summers, saw levels of desegregation while growing up in New Orleans, and their grandmother, Margaret Esteen, marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in both California and Louisiana.
After his death, Margaret Esteen sent a poem to his widow and received a letter in reply, both of which were read during Monday’s celebration.
The event’s feeling of unity was continued as the audience formed a circle and held hands on the courthouse lawn at the end of the celebration.
The event spotlight fell on Garrett Sanders’ more than 10-minute long rendition of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech which brought the audience to their feet in applause.
NAACP representative Laura Smith said many of the younger generations have never heard the speech and that they need to hear it to truly understand the message.
“It makes us feel like all our hard work isn’t in vain,” Smith said.
The event also spotlighted the resurgence of the local chapter of the NAACP, which became defunct over the last several years. The 2013-2014 officers were named and honored, and members encouraged others to attend their meet-and-greet event 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 9 at the El Centro Denny’s.
“Don’t make complaints and not be part of the change,” Smith told the audience. “We need all types of people for change.”
Call Wallace Phillips at 760-455-0354 for information on the NAACP of Imperial Valley.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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