MERCED -- Several dozen Mercedians convened Sunday afternoon at the Merced College Theater to celebrate Black History Month.
The theme for this year's event was "March on Washington," in remembrance of the march's 50th anniversary. The event, from 3 to 5 p.m., included gospel, dance, poetry and musical performances.
Among those in the audience was Merced resident Chavella Dobbins, who found the event joyful. She said it let people know who black people are and what they can do.
"It represents not the negatives of black people, but the positives of black people," she said.
More events such as Sunday's are needed in the community to build unity, Dobbins said.
"It brings people together," she added.
Several people were awarded certificates of appreciation for positive contributions to the community. One was Sun-Star photographer Marci Stenberg, who died recently. There was a moment of silence in her honor and a song was dedicated to her.
Others recognized included President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, Gov. Jerry Brown and Merced College President Ron Taylor, among others in the community.
At the event, UC Merced student Kendall Wright said the country has made a lot of progress on civil rights. But despite Obama's second inauguration, Wright said, more work remains to be accomplished.
"I can only speculate that (Martin Luther King Jr.) would share the same sentiments," he said.
This was the second year Merced College's Student Organization Unified Leadership club, known as SOUL, has organized the event, said club president Antoine Hubbard.
Pleased by turnout
Eighty to 100 people attended the event, a turnout that pleased organizers, Hubbard said.
"It was a good program," he said. "It showed the diversity in the community."
Los Banos resident Jessica McDaniels, 17, performed a dance at the event. She said it's critical to celebrate this country's history with such activities.
"I think it's very important, not just for exposure, but it's also very important just so kids can be involved," the Pacheco High School senior said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.