“Today is truly a momentous occasion as we partake in the first annual celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said City Councilman Reggie Moore to kick off the festivities. “I am so happy to be here to share this day with all of you on the eve of the inauguration of the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama.
“It’s because of the work that Dr. King and others in the civil rights movement were able to accomplish to lay the foundation for all of us to come together to build (an) America that the whole world could look down upon and be proud of.”
Moore, who is Antioch’s first African-American councilman, was the guiding force behind the city’s first official celebration of King.
While the event’s focus was on celebrating King’s life and legacy, God and Jesus were also celebrated in the invocation by Pastor Henry Kelly (“We believe, God, that this is the beginning of something great that’s going to continue in Jesus’ name”), in the gospel singing of the Antioch Church Family Chorus Voices (“Oh, Lord, How Excellent in Thy Name” and “Savior, Do Not Pass Me By”) and in the interpretative movements of the W.E.M.I.M.E. Dance Ministry from the Grace Bible Fellowship Church to the song “The Spirit of the Lord Is Here.”
The keynote speech was provided by Antioch Unified School District Superintendent Deborah Sims, who used the refrain “Without January 19th there would be no January 20th” several times during her remarks, referring to King’s life leading to the inauguration of Obama.
“It is an honor to take part in today’s program,” said Sims. “I stand here today on the shoulders of those heroes and sheroes who dedicated their lives to peace, justice and equality for all people. Today we honor the man whose life and works were committed to ensuring that promises and dreams would be realized.
“In his short time, Dr. King, by his example and leadership, moves us closer to the principals on which America was founded. The majesty of his message, dignity of his actions and righteousness of his cause are a lasting legacy. He woke up the conscience and changed America for all time.
“If you’re asking what happened to that dream, on August 23rd, 2008, exactly 45 years to the day when Dr. King united the nation with ‘I have a dream,’ Barack Obama accepted the nomination for president of the United States.”
County Supervisor Federal Glover was in Washington, D.C. to witness the inauguration, but his Chief of Staff, David Fraser, spoke for him, urging people to honor King by helping their neighbors.
“Civil rights does not become civil rights until we understand the value of civil service,” said Fraser. “In other words, being neighborly, being brotherly, taking care of those in need … and giving them an opportunity to excel in life. So in memory of Dr. King, today I want to urge you that if you are an advocate for equality in our society, of civil rights for all people … begin by being a civil servant: giving, sharing and embracing your neighbor.”
The event included performances by Antioch school students, a benediction and a march to the Nick Rodriguez Community Center followed by a reception.