Civil rights

At MLK’s Coachella commemoration, many say the civil rights leader’s work is timely even today

Minister Allah Sean Johnson prays during a memorial event to celebrate the accomplishments of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Coachella, Calif., on Sunday, January 16, 2022.

As attorney Anyse Smith was researching Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work for a speech she was to deliver at a Sunday memorial at the Coachella Library, she was struck by the relevance of the work of the civil rights leader in today’s social and political climate. .

King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech 59 years ago during the 1963 March on Washington. He was killed five years later. Now, in 2022, Voting rights legislation is again a controversial topic in Congress.

“The civil rights movement has really supported us for many years. But right now, I think we’re in another time where we have to stand up again for the rights that are restricted: the right to vote,” Smith said. , a resident. of Palm Desert. “I think its principles and the steps, especially of nonviolent direct action, are just as applicable today as they were then.”

Sunday’s celebration, organized by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Committee ahead of Monday’s federal holiday honoring King, marked the return of the in-person event after last year’s celebration was gone virtual due to COVID-19.

As she delivered her speech at the outdoor ceremony in front of about 100 attendees, Smith stressed that love is the foundation of both nonviolent practices for social change and what King aspires to – what he called a “beloved community”. In such a place, he said, poverty, hunger and homelessness would not be tolerated; racism and all forms of discrimination would be replaced by inclusion; and disputes would be settled by peaceful means.

“We are our brothers and sisters keepers,” Smith said. “We are here as one family in the Coachella Valley.”

Sharon McKee performs at a memorial event to celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Coachella, Calif. on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022.

Sharon McKee performs at a memorial event to celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Coachella, Calif. on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022.

As Coachella was the host city this year, the theme of Sunday’s program, “Bringing Communities Together in the Coachella Valley,” could be felt through the speakers and entertainment.

Representatives from various towns in the valley read proclamations. Singer Keisha D performed, with Sol de mi Tierra Ballet Folklórico, and Norman and Sharon McKee on African Drums. A blessing from Danza Azteca Citlaltonac also kicked off the celebrations.

There was a strong presence of young people at the celebration, both among the spectators and those who took the stage. Girl Scout Troop 490 said the Pledge of Allegiance, while young children danced folkloric ballet.

Taylor Franz, 12, of Cathedral City, said she discovered King’s work by watching speeches and videos at school. He said it was necessary to celebrate the civil rights leader because “his words were important”.

Jarvis Crawford, chairman of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Committee, said it was important to involve young people in the annual celebration so they can continue to learn about the civil rights movement in the world. American history.

People gather to celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Coachella, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022.

People gather to celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Coachella, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022.

Some people want to keep topics like racism out of the school curriculum, he noted, referring to Texas lawmakers who passed a bill to ban critical race theory in schools. the invoice statements “a teacher cannot be compelled to discuss a particular current event or a widely debated and currently contentious issue of public policy or social affairs.”

Crawford thinks keeping issues such as race away from young people is “detrimental”.

“History is history, whether it’s good or bad, whether it’s negative or positive,” Crawford said. “If you don’t know where we came from, you won’t know how far you have to go.”

While there’s been a lot of change since King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963, there’s still a lot to do, Crawford said. Locally, more diverse representation in political offices across the valley is a top priority.

“In the Coachella and Indio areas, you’ll see a lot of Latinos in power, but that’s because of the population. When you go to Palm Springs, you don’t see too many minorities or Afro- Americans in politics, and population there are just as big with Latinos,” he said.

“In our school districts, the school board members in our valley (does not reflect) the actual population of people who are here in these areas,” he added, “With the teachers in the schools, you don’t don’t see that.”

With Monday officially designated as a federal holiday to remember King, Crawford encouraged people to take action and improve their communities. In years past, the president said his family had distributed blankets to the homeless or helped prepare meals for those in need.

Smith said even researching or watching a movie, like “Selma,” to find out why a federal holiday recognizes her work is another way to remember King’s legacy.

“I hope we continue to keep his memory and his legacy alive, that we continue to delve beyond the mere sound bites we hear and truly discover the man himself and what he truly stood for,” said said Smith.

Ema Sasic covers entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ema_sasic.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Celebrating Coachella: Martin Luther King Jr.’s work is relevant today