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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Martin Luther King Jr. celebration

Downtown Davis holds freedom march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Davis hosted its annual celebration for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 21 at the Varsity Theatre. The event featured guest speakers and music to commemorate civil rights with the theme, “Advancing the Dream; Empowering and Uplifting the Next Generation.” One of the goals of the event was to encourage dialogue on race.

A few performances consisted of an Afrovibes dance, a local youth reading and another reading by Davis’ Poet Laureate James Lee Jobe, as well as singing by Nathalie Minya. The program was concluded with a freedom march through downtown Davis.

Cynthia Pickett, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at UC Davis, was invited to give a speech.

“I was approached by the organizers to see if I would speak at the event,” Pickett said. “I think it’s because of my research on social identity, intergroup relations and belonging [as well as] my work on diversity and inclusion at UC Davis — plus being on school board and being interested in children.”

Carrie Dyer, a community engagement and cultural services and management analyst for the City of Davis, explained that the event intends to build a community of acceptance.

“The function of the Davis Human Relations Commission is to promote mutual respect, understanding and tolerance among all persons,” Dyer said via email. “The Commission shall seek to build a community where relationships among diverse peoples are valued by all, discrimination and hate are not tolerated, the voices of the voiceless are heard, and where citizens can address issues dealing with hatred, discrimination and alienation through education, outreach, studies and recommendations to the City Council.”

Pickett highlighted concepts such as race in her speech to inspire children. She referenced Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech to explore how race is perceived and treated in society.

“In Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, it talks about the idea of being judged for the content of our character and not the color of our skin,” Pickett said. “A lot of people have interpreted this speech as colorblind ideology, but if you read Martin Luther King’s readings, you see that it was what he intended. He recognized that people are judged and treated differently based on race, gender and a host of other factors. His dream was that through recognizing people’s differences [it] can litigate the damages and to not ignore race entirely.”

Pickett also included the dichotomy between colorblind ideology and multicultural ideology.

“What I will be doing is to talk about what colorblind ideology is versus multicultural ideology — where you recognize and embrace differences and how by not talking about race, we are actually causing harm,” Pickett said.

Pickett’s speech largely focused on how to empower children to ensure that the next generation can move forward from race-related issues and conflicts.

“In terms of empowering children of color and also being able to improve race relations, if you don’t talk about race and understand other people’s perspectives and come up with solutions to problems that arise, [then] my focus is to highlight the importance of talking about race especially among children and youth,” Pickett said.

This was not the first time Pickett has attended the event.

“I’ve been going to this for several years and one of the traditional parts of the event are African American children who do a poem or speech, and it’s just inspiring to see that next generation,” Pickett said. “I think my message is an important one — about why we shouldn’t shy away from talking about race and by having that platform to talk about it is valuable and I appreciate being able to speak.”

Mayor Brett Lee indicated his support for the community event.

“I look forward to this tradition of our community coming together to promote mutual respect, understanding and tolerance among all people,” Lee said, according to Davis Enterprise. “Please join us.”

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org


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