Activist's efforts highlighted through peace march, speechs during four-day event
In order to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.'s achievements, the Fresno community hosted a four-day event that featured guest speakers and a peace march, Jan. 13-16. Here, the McLane High School Chorus gives a performance at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national holiday that is celebrated on the third Monday every January. The Fresno community commemorates this holiday through a four-day event sponsored by the Martin Luther King Unity Committee. This year, there were marches, speeches from keynote speakers and entertainment from local schools featured in the event, which took place, Jan. 13-16.
At the celebration's peak -- which occurred on the actual holiday -- groups of people from Peace Fresno and the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Committee gathered at 9 a.m. for a half-mile march from St. James Cathedral to the Veterans Memorial. Several individuals held signs to advocate Civil Rights Awareness in the Central Valley.
Peace Fresno -- a non-profit organization that is working to stop violence in Fresno -- member Wayne Warkentin says that he annually marches in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event.
"I march because I care about peace and injustice," Warkentin said. "My dad was a medic in the World War II, and did not believe in fighting. Martin Luther King Jr. did not believe in fighting in Vietnam, and spoke against war and injustice. His name is an expression for peace."
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Fresno essentially represents this attempt to stop violence in the community. Sunnyside High School sophomore Imari Reynolds said that she has come to this event since she was a little girl and stands with the group against gang violence.
"I am here because I feel like I want to keep the movement going," Reynolds said. "I think that we should learn about our history because, right now, everyone here can just forget about the gangs. People need to realize that, by being here, we are raising awareness to stop gang violence."
I march because I care about peace and injustice ... Martin Luther King Jr. did not believe in fighting in Vietnam, and spoke against war and injustice. His name is an expression for peace." --Wayne Warkentin, Peace Fresno member
Central High School freshman Miracle Fuller also visits the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Commemoration each year. She says that, at first, she used to come with her mom, but now she comes because she wants to support the cause.
"I come here to keep learning about my history and culture, " Fuller said. "At first, my mom used to bring me, but now I come because it helps me to realize the sacrifices that were made for us to be free in this country."
These two students come to support this cause they believe in, however, they were not alone, the entire Veterans Memorial Auditorium was filled with people.
The Fresno Martin Luther King Unity Committee and community supporters gathered outside Fresno City Hall in order to here Senator Michael Rubio speak during the Martin Luther King Jr. March, Jan. 16. The rally was held in honor of the legacy of peace and equality Martin Luther King Jr. left behind.
One guest of honor asked to sing and speak during this event is Sister Elizabeth Padilla. She owns a meditation center in the San Francisco area as well as in Fresno.
"I am involved with interfaith activity," Padilla said. "It all started because I want truth. I want answers and my life was a bit self-centered. I realized that I need to look not just inside myself, but outside myself to help others."
Padilla sang two songs and spoke about the importance of fighting against violence in the community. Also, that peace is something that everyone can help achieve despite an individuals' race.
For more information about Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Fresno, email the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Committee.
For more features, read the Jan. 10 article, Guess Who: The 14th subject.
Editor's note: These videos are courtesy of Tate Hill, president of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to Padilla's address, Granite Ridge Intermediate student Ritujith Jayakrishnan gave his award-winning speech for the Fresno County Office of Education, which you can view in the video below.