Martin Luther King Day has always been about bringing people together. Unfortunately the coronavirus had other plans.
For the second time in three years, the annual MLK march in Vallejo has been canceled — this time due to the concerns with the omicron variant. In the past the march would start at the Wells Fargo parking lot on Tennessee and Tuolumne streets and continue to Rollingwood Drive, to Georgia street and then to Hogan Middle School.
“Well, we pushed it all the way up to the end of December before making the decision,” Vallejo NAACP President Jimmie Jackson said. “But finally, with this omicron virus, the school district was unwilling to open up Hogan High Middle School, where we usually meet. We also couldn’t get the permit to walk through the city of Vallejo.
“I’m upset about it, because we’re once again missing an opportunity to help bring people together,” Jackson continued. “I love how on this day people from all over the communities come together and interchange behaviors from their various communities. The citizens are able to see public officials and Congressmen like Mike Thompson. It’s a day of giving and working with each other.”
King was an iconic American Baptist minister and activist who became a leader in the American civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King’s goal was to advance civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his own Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.
King participated in and led marches for African Americans’ right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights. He is known for many things, including the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and later becoming the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Although King was assassinated April 4, 1968, his legacy continues.
“MLK was very much a person who wanted people to come together,” Jackson said. “MLK believed that all of us were Americans. Not White Americans or Black Americans, but Americans. He had so many philosophies, but his main one and ultimate goal was unity.”
Although the march has been canceled, there are however, other ways to celebrate King’s life on Jan. 17 in Vallejo. Other activities are planned that day include a community event at Kyles Temple African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church’s community garden on the corner of Sonoma Boulevard and Illinois Street.
At the community garden there will be youth art projects, vaccination shots and vendors, according to the Vallejo NAACP’s Youth Director, Pat Hunter. Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) will be hosting the event, while other organizations such as Touro University, the African American Alliance, the The Oakland/Bay Area Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and others will be on site educating on the importance of community and MLK.
“The day is all about unity in the community, so what better place to have these activities than at the community garden,” Hunter said. “There will be many organizations there and we will be giving out vegetables.”
Deborah Dickson, the president of the Solano/Napa chapter of BWOPA is also anitcipating the event.
“I’m really looking helping many people get vaccinated,” Dickson said. “I want to present this information to as many people as possible because I want the march to happen in 2023. I’ve been living in Vallejo for 72 years and it’s one of my favorite events.”
Jackson agreed that the events at the community garden will be vital.
“One of our biggest focuses is getting information out to the youth about MLK,” Jackson said. “It’s very important that kids learn about him early on and realize that all of us are created equal.”