The Martin Luther King Community Coalition (MLK Coalition) in collaboration with the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) and the City of Pasadena presented the annual Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration on Monday, January 19, 2015. Student winners from the essay and art contest read their essays and had their artwork on display. They were presented with certificate awards, proclamations, trophies, and cash prizes. City council representatives, PUSD officials, and community leaders and volunteers were in attendance to congratulate the students. The celebration garnered over 500 attendees.
The precursor to the celebration was a teach-in and screening of the documentary, “Legacy of a Dream” for an audience of nearly 100 participants, which included members of the community and PUSD students and families. The dialogue session was facilitated by PUSD Executive Director of Elementary Education, Julie Reynoso and former director, Dr. Kathy Onoye. A continental breakfast was supplied by the Scott United Methodist men’s group, headed by Joel McCombs and Rev. Dr. James E. Stevenson.
After the screening and discussion, guests viewed several displays in the foyer, including a collection of Martin Luther King and civil rights memorabilia, archival photographs, postcards, stamp collections, board games, magazines, and other artifacts, coordinated by MLK Coalition members, Joan Reid and Alice and Jerald Peterson.
The celebration began with Reverend Stevenson opening with the invocation. Attorney Joe Hopkins of The Journal Newspaper, introduced the master of ceremonies, Dr. Jamal-Dominique Hopkins, director of the JD Institute. Robert Miller, interim president of Pasadena City College introduced keynote speaker, PUSD Superintendent, Dr. Brian McDonald, who shared his strategic vision for the district.
Delano Robinson, widow of world-class sprinter and 1936 Olympic silver medalist, Mack Robinson, led the audience in singing the opening African American national anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson and the Mahalia Jackson version of the closing civil rights song, “We Shall Overcome.” Betty J. Ford, community musician and advocate, long time member of the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM), and fondly referred to by many as the Rosa Parks of Pasadena, accompanied Robinson on the piano.
The celebration included a variety of dance and musical presentations, including West African drumming and singing by Onoche Chukwurah and son, Onoche Chukwurah, Jr., of Rhythms of the Village; Willard Elementary School Choir directed by Edwina Daniel; and Ballet Folklorico, Sol y Luna, directed by Gabriela de Leon.
Mayor Bill Bogaard presented a proclamation to the Martin Luther King Community Coalition. Councilman John Kennedy, Senator Carol Liu, Assemblyman Chris Holden, Assemblyman Mike Gatto and U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu gave greetings.
Former assemblyman, Anthony Portantino, recognized special guests, including 102-year old Charles Johnson — Southern Pacific Railroad’s first African American dining car steward who lives in Altadena with his wife.
Dr. David L. Jacobs, Jr., program director of the Martin Luther King Community Coalition, acknowledged the generosity and support of the awards sponsor, Tournament of Roses. Representatives of the organization included Mike Mathiessen, 2016 Tournament of Roses President; Dr. Robert (Bob) Miller, Tournament of Roses Executive Committee; and Laura Farber, Esq.
One of the highlights of the students’ experience is being congratulated by Tournament of Roses representatives who serve as role models for the youth for their dedication to community involvement, professionalism, graciousness, and impeccable appearance and demeanor. The Tournament of Roses members are also active participants in the preceding annual MLK Day of Service campus beautification project.
The MLK Community Coalition’s Essay and Art Committees commended students for their involvement in academic competitions, which go above and beyond their regular routine and school work, and acknowledged the hard work of the teachers and principals who create time to fit arts activities into their already crowded schedules and who integrate the contest process into their curriculum as a required activity. They also reminded the teachers and principals to include the essay and art contest November deadline into their annual planning.
In addition to the 2015 Martin Luther King Day celebration, this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Selma voting rights campaign and infamous marches, as well as the 30th anniversary of the MLK Community Coalition. The celebration ended with a special presentation from the MLK Coalition honoring Dr. David and Jackie Jacobs, founders of the organization, for their life of service. On behalf of the coalition, Juanita Tillman presented the couple with a special gift for their leadership, volunteerism and philanthropy.
The celebration is presented in conjunction with the Pasadena Unified School District, Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Aspires West Pasadena, Friends Indeed, Scott United Methodist Church, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority-Pasadena Chapter, and the City of Pasadena.
The winning art is currently featured on the homepage of the MLK Community Coalition’s website at pasadenamlk.com and will remain there for the remainder of the year. The original pieces of student art work will be displayed at the Pasadena Unified School District located at 351 South Hudson Avenue Pasadena, California 91101 from January 22 through January 31, 2015. The next location of the display will be at the Pasadena Central Library, located at 285 East Walnut Street Pasadena, CA 9110, from February 1 through February 28, 2015.