Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday Sunday and Monday
By JESSICA ZIMMER / Santa Rosa Correspondent
On Sunday, Jan. 19, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Birthday Celebration will take place at Santa Rosa High School’s auditorium. The event is free and features gospel song by the Celebration Mass Choir, dance performances, middle and high school oratories, a children’s program, birthday cake, and fellowship. Between 500 and 700 people are expected to attend.
The event, now in its 34th year, is organized by the MLK Committee. The Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County is a cosponsor of the event.
Pastor Lee Turner of Community Baptist Church, a member of the MLK Committee, said the event helps the community remember the philosophies of Dr. King.
“It’s almost renewing the whole idea (of his work) and the joy of it,” said Turner.
Turner said for him, one of the most moving parts of the event is watching the middle and high school students give speeches on a theme related to Dr. King’s work. This year’s theme is “Nonviolence is the answer.”
“To see their insight, their research, and apply that to their own specific era is encouraging. Some of them are very passionate about what they’ve found,” said Turner.
Turner said on Monday, Jan. 20, Community Baptist Church has organized a Day of Service called “Day On, Not a Day Off.” Everyone, including teenagers, is invited to take part in projects that benefit the community.
“We’ve collaborated with a number of different organizations, including Landpaths and the California Homemakers’ Association. We’ll meet at Community Baptist Church at 10 a.m. (and engage in projects). Later we’ll have lunch at the church, Then we’ll have a closing ceremony at Juilliard Park at 3 p.m…marching straight down Sonoma Avenue,” said Turner.
Occidental activist Mary Moore, who helped coordinate the first Dr. King Birthday Celebration in 1980, recalls that the event was celebrated in Santa Rosa before both state and the federal governments declared it a national holiday.
“(Even then) this was a way overdue coalition for this county. It (the first Dr. King Birthday Celebration) was a real simple thing. We had a service. The day was spent in a barbecue. It was just a getting together of all the different cultures in Sonoma County,” said Moore.
Moore said the event helped unite the “white, middle-class” members of the anti-nuke movement: “SONOMoreAtomics…that was part of the statewide Abalone Alliance,” and the Peace Network with the Black community.
Moore said the event has continued and grown over the years.
“It finally brought people together to get to know each other and become friends,” said Moore.
Destiny Williams, a 15-year-old sophomore at Casa Grande High School, said she will be participating in both the Dr. King Birthday Celebration and Day of Service.
“I feel it’s important because I think our generation is kind of forgetting about the past. I think it (participating in these events) is a good way to help remind us of where we came from,” said Williams.
Williams said learning about Dr. King’s life motivates both her work in the community and as an individual.
“What inspires me the most is he did it with peace rather than violence. (His progress) helps me realize that the things I want to accomplish will take time. I can accomplish the things I want to if I do it patiently and peacefully,” said Williams.
If You Go: Dr. King Birthday Celebration is 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19, at Santa Rosa High School Auditorium, 1235 Mendocino Avenue. Day of Service is 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 20 at Community Baptist Church, 1620 Sonoma Avenue. Both events are free. Info: Community Baptist Church, 546-0744; The Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, 575-8902; peaceandjusticesonomaco.org, cbcsr.org.