This year’s virtual program included performances from local artists and youth as the city continues its commitment to social justice
On Jan. 18, the City of Davis held its 27th annual celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK). The program aired on DCTV Channel 15 and was broadcasted on KDRT 95.7 FM. It was available to view through January via the city of Davis YouTube channel and the Davis Media Access website.
Sponsored by the city of Davis and the Davis Human Relations Commission and with footage compiled by Davis Media Access, the program included highlights of speakers and performances from past years as well as current messages from local students.
Management Analyst with the Davis City Manager’s Office Carrie Dyer oversaw much of the event coordination and explained the impact of the ongoing stay-at-home orders.
“For this year in particular, [the coordination of the event] was a little bit different,” Dyer said. “In a typical year, the commission would have a subcommittee of maybe a few people who come together and identify speakers and performers. We hold the event at the Varsity Theater downtown. It’s often standing-room only with a number of people that we have in attendance. It really is amazing and quite moving.”
Despite the changes in venue and planning, Dyer explained that the final 2021 program is similar to the typical program in its makeup and includes memorable highlights from past years.
“The video that was compiled is actually a very similar type of line-up to what is presented at the Varsity Theatre each year,” Dyer said. “I found clips that really resonated with the community in years past. [We usually] do a nice balance of spoken word, dance and song to really appeal to all ages of audience. It’s typically about an hour and 15 minute event, and we conclude with a freedom march downtown.”
Dyer explained that the inclusion of new clips and readings from local youth was achieved in partnership with Davis schools and the local organization Parents of African American Children.
“For the poem that was read, [we] reached out [to] the junior high’s Black student union,” Dyer said. “Separate from that, there’s an organization we work with [the Parents of African American Children] every year for the MLK event. We had sent out an open call to the members and the ones [featured] in the video were children from that group.”
Chair of the city of Davis Human Relations Commission (HRC) Sheila Allen stressed the value of recognizing figures like Dr. King, and she explained some of the ways in which the Davis community is also a part of the national history in regards to racial justice.
“The city of Davis, with the leadership of the HRC, honors and acknowledges the work of MLK and Cesar Chavez each year as examples of how individuals can make a positive difference in their community,” Allen said via email. “You may note in the 2021 video the ‘Freedom Singers’ leading the audience in song. This group included some of the original 27 people who chartered a bus from the Davis Community Church to Alabama on March 21, 1965 to join MLK and the Freedom Riders from Selma.”
Allen explained that support from community members for events such as the MLK Celebration have a vital role in creating the kind of cities and the kind of country we strive to be.
“We gather to remember that we all can have a role in making our city and nation a more just place,” Allen said via email.
In addition to the annual MLK Celebration, Allen explained that the HRC also hosts a celebration of Cesar Chavez at the end of March. The HRC selects local community members to recognize during the Thong Hy Huynh awards and is actively involved in facilitating community conversations on how to improve safety and policing in Davis.
“These awards recognize the local leaders in social justice and make [Davis] a more inclusive city,” Allen said via email. “We hope that the community will feel inspired and more connected and think about what they can do to make Davis a better place for all.”
City of Davis Mayor Gloria Partida provided the opening remarks for this year’s MLK Celebration and explained that it is just one example of the city of Davis’ continued dedication to providing a more equitable, safe and accepting community.
“The city has a commitment to social justice as evidenced by having three commissions devoted to ensuring the vulnerable populations of the city are heard,” Partida said via email. “The Human Relations Commission is tasked with hosting a number of events that recognize diversity. The other two commissions devoted to equity are the Police Accountability Commission and the Social Services Commission.”
In addition to these commissions, Partida explained that the city of Davis also partners with several nonprofit social justice oriented groups to support local artists and the LGBTQ+ community.
Partida described that the commitment to justice and remembrance helps to build a sense of a larger community.
“We must continue to mark our life in milestones and remember that we are a part of a large collective of humanity that gives us purpose,” Partida said via email. “Every small action done by citizens multiplies the message of standing up to injustice.”
Written by: Yan Yan Hustis Hayes — firstname.lastname@example.org