The life and legacy of civil rights icon Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was celebrated on what would have been his 89th birthday at the Imperial County Courthouse steps on Jan. 15.
The assembly of about 100 was hosted by the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee, NAACP, AmeriCorps and Imperial Valley Social Justice.
The Reverend Markco King of the Solid Rock Christian Ministries of Imperial County said King fought for a dream through peaceful protests and boycotts. Yet, realizing there would be resistance to establishing equal rights for African-Americans, he was not afraid to fight.
"Fifty years after the murder of Dr. King we're still dreaming," said Markco King. "There's nothing wrong with having a dream, but we have to make this dream a reality. We're all in this together. We've got to cross over (cultural divisions) and embrace our brothers."
Noting it was an honor to speak before the crowd, John Cabrera, Imperial County Office of Education prevention specialist, remarked King believed in community service and that all should believe in something higher than themselves. Named after the Protestant Reformation founder, Martin Luther, King believed in positive change, Cabrera stressed.
"It's not about color, it's about character, and we need to be that person," said Cabrera. "When it comes to character, it starts with the individual. It starts with you making a pledge to be a person of integrity."
Lupe Quintero, Imperial County community advocate, called King a hero to all citizens. He appealed to whites for justice and opportunity, though he did not need to ask for permission, she said, adding he firmly told blacks that if they waited for the right time that is all they would do--wait.
"Despite being arrested and assaulted, he practiced nonviolence and refused to emulate his oppressors," said Quintero. "Dr. King taught us to never give in to fear, distrust and hatred. He refused to be stripped of his dignity because injustices inflicted on minorities should never be tolerated. Let us all have the courage to keep his dream."
The gathering was informed that because of King's struggles people of color enjoy freedoms they were denied 50 years ago, explained Rev. Denise Jackson, pastor of Johnsons Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. She reminded the attendees the modern civil rights movement was sparked by activist Rosa Parks' refusal to forfeit her bus seat to a white passenger. Her action led to the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and 13 months later the 1956U.S. Supreme Court decision desegregating public transit."You (audience) are the change agent; make the change in the community and the world," said Jackson. "When Barack Obama was president, he said, 'Yes we can.' It doesn't matter what color you are. You make it happen. We can do it."