Speakers and musicians celebrate civil rights leader’s legacy in Santa Barbara program
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. raised one important question for everyone to consider throughout their lives.
“What are you doing for others?”
The civil rights leader’s question — and his challenge to be better, to do better — was emphasized during a nearly two-hour celebration on Martin Luther King Day at the Arlington Theatre.
“King said in 1967, ‘God needs men and women who ask, ‘What will happen to humanity if I don’t help?’” said keynote speaker Daina Ramey Berry, the Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at UCSB.
Dr. Berry said people need to ask themselves what will happen to the civil rights movement if people don’t participate, to communities if citizens don’t vote or to the sick if others don’t visit them.
“My call for the city of Santa Barbara is to do more for others,” Dr. Berry said. “Random acts of kindness. Pay someone’s parking or meal.
“Hold the door open for someone behind you. Believe it or not, people don’t always do that,” Dr. Berry said. “Spend time with the elderly. Reach out to your neighbors. Be kind to a new student at your school.
“Share your lunch. Thank your teacher. Hug your parents,” Dr. Berry said. “Volunteer to help a local business.
“Stand up for people that you see they’re being mistreated or disrespected,” she said. “This is the charge for us, Santa Barbara.”
Accompanied by large slides on a screen behind her, Dr. Berry’s talk concluded a program that emphasized music, short speeches and some words of wisdom from today’s youths.
Monday’s mid-day program was presented by the Martin Luther King Committee of Santa Barbara
Those entering the Arlington Theatre were greeted with smiles and enthusiastic “good mornings” by volunteers, and the good vibrations continued with inspirational gospel music and other entertainment.
The audience filled up a third or so of the theater’s 2,000 seats, and they enthusiastically applauded the speakers’ key points and clapped to the music.
Miriam Dance, Shirley Hammons and Michelle Jarvis sang selections such as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Expect Your Miracle,” accompanied by keyboardist John Douglas.
Ms. Dance, a singer-songwriter and director of theater at the Riviera Ridge School and Bishop Diego High School, poured her soul into the song, “Remedy.”
The beat could not have been more solid as Sese Ntem and Ewe Drummers of Ghana performed.
And Mariano Silva, a master of the Afro-Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, and others performed the kinetic martial art before an impressed audience.
In addition, awards were presented to youths of various ages who won for their essays and poetry honoring the principles of Dr. King. Two of the first-place winners read their essays.
Rosalyn Y. Collins — actress, model and host of “The Experience with Gospel DJ Sista ROZ” on KCSB-FM — emceed the program with a smile, some humor and statements about how she felt inspired by the speakers of all ages.
Speakers praised Dr. King and his emphasis on nonviolent protest to achieve dramatic changes in society, even in the face of those who threatened and assaulted the protesters in the South in the 1960s.
Dr. Berry cited the peaceful march from Selma to a bridge in Montgomery, Ala., where state troopers beat up the nonviolent protesters marching with Dr. King.
She said that even in the face of such danger, Dr. King told others of the importance of standing up for what is right and true, preaching, “We’re going to stand up amid anything that they muster up, letting the world know we are determined to be free.”
Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, reminded the audience of Dr. King’s work to secure the rights and freedom for those who faced oppression. “We pay tribute to his principles: love, justice, inclusion and respect. It’s also a reminder that we have the power to fulfill that vision, to work and live in a community, state and nation free of discrimination.”
Sen. Limón emphasized the importance of working on issues such as access to health care, education and economic security. “Dr. King taught us that together we can make progress. Today, more than ever, let us join forces and work together on a mission of inclusion and justice for all.”
Other speakers included U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal and Assemblymember Gregg Hart, both D-Santa Barbara, and Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse.
Dr. Berry reminded the audience of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream Speech” and his vision of his world where children “would not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.”
“Some of King’s dreams have been realized, and other parts have not yet materialized,” Dr. Berry said. “However, the fact is his speech is still relevant. …
“He believed in unity, harmony and racial equality,” Dr. Berry said. “He stood for justice and was an advocate for the poor.”