Youthful passion carried Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of racial equality and social justice to the masses during a rally and march on Monday in downtown Santa Barbara.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara organized a weekend of activities leading up to Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day program.
A diverse crowd met at De la Guerra Plaza for a short program before marching up State Street to the Arlington Theatre for the main event.
Students from all over the county submitted essays and poetry to the Committee that reflected on Dr. King’s legacy and the theme “In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but rather the silence of our friends,” a quote from Dr. King.
Local poet Sojourner Kincaid Rolle introduced the authors of some of the best submissions during the Arlington Theatre program.
“Let freedom ring. Some have a voice; we all have a dream. Many are still suppressed, America is stained by their screams,” said Roosevelt Elementary School student Charley Crane Flores as she read from her poem. Charley won first place the 6 to 12 age group.
“The cry of a mother torn away from her son can be heard by every migrant on the run. The soul of the slave can feel this pain, the chains have been broken but freedom has not reigned,” said Charley as she urged the audience to learn about the history of discrimination then actively call out injustice and educate others on the importance of social issues.
First place essayist for the 6 to 12 age range Noah Slotnick-Lastrico referenced Dr. King’s “Three Evils:” Racism, war, poverty and argued racism may be more prevalent now than ever before.
“We may not have segregated lunch counters, but we still have people discriminating against others due to the color of their skin, heritage and culture. Because of these stereotypes people of certain races may not get the chance to have the same opportunities as others through no fault of their own,” said Noah. He continued that war distracts from the social and economic problems at home such as the wealth disparity between the working class and corporate officers, actors and professional athletes.
“When one is given economic power, they’re given the chance to improve their lives and their community…to be agents of change we must heed these timeless words of Dr. King which compel us to speak out against the three major evils despite the risk to us as individuals,” said Noah.
Summer Slotnick-Lastrico, first-place poet aged 13 to 18, echoed the call to speak out against injustice.
“Speak out for your friends, and your family and peers. This alone can help them for years and years. And with more speaking up and spreading the word we’ll be hard to ignore, we may even be heard,” she said.
Keynote speaker Rev. James Lawson, 91, is a longtime activist and university professor who was one of the leading theoreticians on nonviolence within the Rosa Parks-Martin Luther King Movement for Nonviolence.
Dr. King called Rev. Lawson “the greatest teacher of nonviolence in America.”
The two met at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio on Feb. 6, 1957.
“We did not create the heritage of plantation capitalism who says almost a third of we the people have problems with having food and shelter and medicine, transportation and education and the rest of it. We did not create these elements of our history we inherited them,” said Rev. Lawson who reminded the audience that they are not personally responsible for the history of racism and sexism in America.
“Martin Luther King Jr. and the moment that we represented was an effort to demand and insist that the problems of our times are issues that can be dissolved and replaced with fairer structures of community.”