Martin Luther King Day Celebrated in Santa Barbara
By Robert Bernstein
Martin Luther King Day was celebrated once again in a big way in Santa Barbara. The theme this year was "Together We Stand".
Here are my videos and my photos of the events, arranged in five galleries.
The events started at 9AM in De La Guerra Plaza with dance, music and short speeches to rally the crowd.
World Dance for Humanity performed several dances, including dancing to this Civil Rights rallying song "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize"
Each year Sojourner Kinkaid-Rolle organizes a Martin Luther King poetry and essay contest in local schools. Thanks to the dedication of local teachers and students we are fortunate to get a fresh crop of inspiring poetry and essays each year from our young people in the community.
In past years the winning compositions have been read at the big event at the Arlington Theater. But this year the readings were spread out among many different events. Michelle Qin has won the essay contest four years in a row and read her current piece "All for All" at De La Guerra Plaza.
Ms Qin was kind enough to send me the full text of her essay. Here it is and I encourage you to read it.
Ms Qin noted that we all know that Martin Luther King had a "Dream". But she challenged us to consider all that was in that Dream. Yes, it was about "a world where girls and boys of different colored skins can stand hand-in-hand," she noted. But it was much more than that, Ms Qin emphasized.
King's Dream was not only for racial equality. But it was for social equality, educational equality, political equality and financial equality.
I will note that King had a powerful agenda of economic justice and promoted a five point "Economic Bill of Rights": "A meaningful job at a living wage" "A secure and adequate income" for all those unable to find or do a job "Access to land" for economic uses "Access to capital" for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses "Ability for ordinary people to 'play a truly significant role' in the government"
Ms Qin also emphasized King's message that change happens because of thousands of activists working together. It takes skilled and inspiring organizers to coordinate that energy effectively. But it takes dedicated and courageous people in large numbers who often get little credit.
In the news we may see a memorable moment of a huge rally. Or a peaceful confrontation against brutal force by authorities. Behind those fleeting moments are tens of thousands of person-hours of planning and work.
I will add that the Civil Rights Movement had intensive training sessions where they role-played how to respond to those brutal attacks that would come from racist police and their fire hoses and dogs. They role-played how to deal with assaults that would come when they tried to sit at a lunch counter segregated by law.
They were drilled more thoroughly in non-violence than military recruits receive in violence training. The civil rights activists had to learn the extraordinary discipline to remain non-violent as they were met with violence that was brutal and utterly unjust.
Dr Jerry Fresia wrote of the strategy in his book"Toward an American Revolution". On p162 he wrote about King's "Project Confrontation". Non violence is not about being passive.
"Instead of submitting to surreptitious cruelty in thousands of dark jail cells and on countless shadowed street corners," King said, the nonviolent resister “would force his oppressor to commit his brutality openly - in the light of day - with the rest of the world looking on.".…The point, King emphasized, was "to dramatize the gulf between promise and fulfillment…to make the invisible visible."
"Non violence is effective," King summarized, "if it's militant enough, if it’s really doing something."
I thank Ms Qin for raising these deeper issues of the true message that Dr Martin Luther King offered to the world. (To be clear, much of the text above is my own and not hers. Please do read her essay!) A message of a vision of a better future as well as an effective strategy to get to that vision.
After the events in De La Guerra Plaza, the energized crowd then marched up State Street to the Arlington Theater.
The David Gorospe Trio (including Tyler Hammond and Danny Connell) performed in the Arlington Theater foyer to greet the crowd streaming in
The Arlington Theater was the site of the next 90 minutes of rousing talks and performances. Speakers included:
Unitarian Minister Julia Hamilton
E. Onja Brown, President of the Martin Luther
King, Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara
Master of Ceremonies Rev Michelle Downey-Lawyer
Congressman Salud Carbajal
State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson
Congressman Carbajal had the courage to call out the current administration of Donald Trump for dividing our country. It was the elephant in the room that had to be talked about.
Here was Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson's brief but rousing speech
The essay and poetry contest winners were each awarded on stage
Here are the rest of my photos of this ceremony to acknowledge the valuable contributions of these young people.
A highlight of the Arlington Theater events was a range of choral performances. By our own Mama Pat's Inner Light Gospel Choir and by the Coastal West Community Choir of Oxnard.
Here are several of my videos
Here you can view all of my videos of this day of celebration for Martin Luther King.
And here https://www.mlksb.org/ is the web site of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara including a link to donate to make next year's event a success. The complete program from this year is available at the bottom of that page.
After the program at the Arlington Theater, people walked to a free community lunch at the First United Methodist Church at 305 East Anapamu Street. More music and a chance to mingle.