LOS BANOS -- Among the many tributes going on around the country to honor the late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., dozens of people gathered in front of Los Banos City Hall to march in honor of his accomplishments Monday.
For many it was a way to show their support for his activism but for others it was a way to keep his dream alive. The mile-long march began at City Hall and concluded at the Ted Falasco Arts Center where several spoke about how the civil rights leader changed their life and made history.
Henry Smith, 58, a participant and speaker, reflected on an 8th grade assignment he had written right at the time the King became known for his work.
“When Sister Smith introduced me, she said ‘I was going to make reflections on history,’” he explained, “and my history with respect to civil rights, and to the time of Dr. King, was starting at the time I started junior high school … in 1957.”
Racial violence is what led him to writing that paper. “Racial violence was very prominent throughout the whole country,” he said.
Smith also referred to the story of Emmett Till, a black child who was brutally murdered at the age of 14 for accusations of being flirtatious with a white woman.
“It was a story that went right across the United States,” Smith said. “That was just a reflection of how things were at that time. So I wrote that paper based on that kind of atmosphere, that I could be killed walking down the street because the color of my skin.”
Smith said his teachers didn’t know what to do with the assignment. “It was something people didn’t talk about,” he said, “especially; you didn’t express it in school. I thought that was something everybody should be aware of.”
Pastor Phil Jenkins also participated in the march and reflected on the King’s work. “Keeping the dream alive is those that are continuing to fight for the freedom of all people,” Jenkins said, “and equality to everyone. That’s how you keep your dream alive. Don’t sit back because you have got to the point where you’ve made it, what about those who are coming behind you? Continue to fight to make life better for everyone.”
Jenkins said as the march continues to grow he would like to see a more diverse crowd attend. He, along with organizers are working toward getting the march to conclude at the Los Banos Community Center. “(We need) more people within this city to truly understand that the community center means exactly what it says,” Jenkins said, “community.”
Wilma Mitchell, Kente Women’s Club member and organizer, said the turnout was nice. “Hopefully … we’ll be able to get the word out this year to let people know that they’re invited,” Mitchell said. “So we’ll have a much bigger crowd.”
Mitchell said organizers’ main goal is to bring the community together.
“We’re hoping to get more people to come and continue to keep the dream alive,” Jenkins added.
Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.