Santa Barbara committee salutes civil rights icon during virtual program; MLKSB President says Dr. King’s words are relevant today
The Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara commemorated the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. virtually for the second consecutive year this weekend.
Its program, compiled from 2021’s celebration, highlights moments from the committee’s years of observances. It aired Friday through Monday on TV Santa Barbara’s channels and YouTube site.
“Over the past 15 years, we’ve been very much engaged in the community and presenting programs and events that reflect what we’re trying to do in terms of embracing the entire community and standing up on the issues — social justice issues — that we’re concerned about,” MLKSB President E. Onja Brown told the News-Press.
The committee holds events throughout the year, but Ms. Brown said the civil rights icon’s message of nonviolence and community arrives at a time of need.
“It’s important in 2022, because we’re at a time period when things are in flux in terms of where we are with the pandemic and in terms of where we are with so many issues having to do with social justice in Santa Barbara and across the country,” she said.
She also hopes people remember Dr. King’s crusade for voting rights.
On Monday, Dr. King’s family led the D.C. Deliver for Voting Rights March. Martin Luther King III tweeted, “Today, remember the true nature of my father’s work. He fought for easy access to the ballot box & civil rights protections. He isn’t a figurehead to be used to uplift backward agendas.”
The Freedom To Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act remain paused in a 50-50 Senate.
In Santa Barbara, MLKSB’s annual march “Walk with Us” is postponed. The march was started by the UCSB chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and grew to include the community.
Dr. Hymon Johnson, professor emeritus at Antioch University and former UCSB professor and administrator, spoke about the Eternal Flame on the campus of UCSB during MLKSB’s virtual program. It is one of two eternal flame memorials honoring Dr. King; the other is in Atlanta.
President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Sen. Robert Kennedy, are also commemorated on UCSB’s monument, which was dedicated by the Class of 1969.
The Eternal Flame is a popular space for student activists to gather.
“It really came to be a focus on the symbol of achievement over struggle, achievement over hardship,” Aaron E. de Santiago Jones, director of the Educational Opportunity Program said. “Regardless of what the issue was, whether it be commemorating the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King or in response to trustees with regards to the development and the evolution of Black Lives Matter to graduate students who are demonstrating for equal pay for their rights as employees of the university, a host of different issues and movements have found a home in that place.”
Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval, chair of the UCSB Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, said the growth of his department was made by student activists who met at the Eternal Flame and planned a hunger strike.
He said the movement was born from black students who took over North Hall in 1968.
Sharon Hoshida, former director of UCSB’s Women’s Center, said the takeover prompted discussions of change on campus.
“Out of that movement came the energy and the coalition to have the vision to create something long-lasting, certainly after the assassinations of 1968, Martin Luther King in April and Robert F. Kennedy in June, that something had to be done and having (the Eternal Flame) come out as a symbol of peace as opposed to violence and revenge,” she said.
To watch the Martin Luther King Day Jr. program, go to youtube.com/watch?v=xtevyY0OsCc. For more information on MLKSB, go to mlksb.org.