“Just like Dr. King, I think it is important to promote unity in the community,” Harper said. “What was great about Dr. King was he was talking about all kids – not just black kids, but white kids and everyone.”
In continuing the tradition of the event started by former City Councilman Reggie Moore in 2009, Harper joined with the Antioch School District and Arts and Cultural Foundation of Antioch in honoring King through speeches and musical performances.
“We do have liberty; we have progressed,” said gospel recording artist Alfreda Lyons-Campbell, reflecting on how far society has come since King started his crusade in 1955 with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. ”We wouldn’t be standing here if progress hasn’t occurred.”
Throughout the celebration, speakers and musical performers emphasized the importance of creating partnerships and common goals in a community through acts of bonding and mentoring. Keynote speaker Silvester Henderson, music department chair at Los Medanos College, identified the key to developing thriving communities as engaging youth using alternative learning models.
“Leading all students to success requires connecting students through their individual passions,” Henderson said.
The passion that inspires kids to love learning was on full display in the performances of Lyons-Campbell, Deer Valley student and comedian Lenard Jackson, the Deer Valley Divine Voices and Antioch High students Raquel Gragg, Lajanique Wilson, Jenna Edwards, Sierra Huston and Marina Rivas.
“It’s very important for students to obtain a traditional education, but sometimes you have to use an alternative model, and start from what they like to do,” Henderson said.
For many in attendance, including 12 Antioch middle and high school students honored with scholarships for their written or visual depiction of how King inspired them, passion for learning and life is derived from King’s teachings.
“I got involved with the civil rights movement at the age of 16,” said Pastor Carrie Frazier. “I stand here today proud to say that his philosophy has been a guide.”
King’s example as a tireless community leader wasn’t far from the mind of Harper in his first celebration as mayor of Antioch. While attending the recent United States Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., he received six tickets to the Presidential Inauguration, but said he felt he should be in Antioch on the day honoring King and his legacy.
“I want to be a mayor that unifies the community.”