Monday, Jan. 21, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday honoring the late civil rights activist.
For some, the day is a time to give back and serve the community, be it through removing graffiti or picking up litter in a local park.
For others, it’s an opportunity to educate themselves about King and his life's work. And for others, it’s a time to just kick back and enjoy the prolonged weekend.
The 2013 commemoration of the King Holiday coincides with the 57th Presidential Inauguration, which will include a National Day of Service. This continues a tradition that started four years ago when President-elect Obama and his family participated in the MLK National Day of Service the day before he was official sworn in.
The two service days bookend the weekend on Jan. 19 and 21 respectively. The inaugural occasion kicks off a chance to give back to the communities with a focus on seven issue areas: health, faith, education, the environment, honoring our veterans and military families, community resilience, and economic development.
Service activities officially start Saturday, Jan. 19, with a few on Monday, locally. You can plug your ZIP code into this National Day of Service search tool for service activities in El Cerrito and Kensington.
Here are a few close to home:
Friday, Jan. 18
- MLK Youth Conference – According to the organizers' announcement: "Students will not only learn about Martin Luther King, Jr. but also other Civil Rights heroes and heroines. In addition, they will earn how art and hip hop music can be used as tools to express themselves as well as tools for social justice. Every student will walk away with a surprise gift as well! We will provide dinner for the participants as well as time to just enjoy themselves and meet new students!" It will be held at YMCA Berkeley Teen Center, 2111 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley, 3-7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 19
- Help the El Cerrito Library – volunteers are invited to help improve the El Cerrito Library both inside and, weather permitting, outside. "Some of the projects will involve organizing materials, general sprucing up of the library and some landscape and outdoor projects if the weather allows," according to an event announcement. "Bring your energy and enthusiasm and let's all help to make the Library shine! We may need a new library, but lets make the best of the one we have." 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sponsored by the El Cerrito Friends of the Library, the New Library for El Cerrito Campaign and the El Cerrito Library. For more info: (510) 508-0052, email@example.com.
- Richmond Community March and Rally starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Nevin Community Center, 598 Nevin Avenue, ends at Richmond City Hall, 450 Civic Center Plaza. More: Michelle Milam, City of Richmond 510-620-6538.
Monday, Jan. 21
- El Cerrito MLK Parade starts at 9:30 am at the DMV, 6400 Manila Ave., and ends at El Cerrito High School, 540 Ashbury Avenue. Rally at the High School Performing Arts Center starts at 10:30 a.m. and includes singing, speeches, music and entertainment. More: Event Coordinator Patricia Durham, 510-234-2518 or city's webpage.
- King’s favorite meal at El Cerrito Royale, 6510 Gladys Ave., following the El Cerrito parade and program at the high school. From John Stashik's "Stash's Palaver" column: "Southern Mixed Green Salad, Spare Ribs Atlanta, Deep Southern Black-eyed Peas, Baked Sweet Potato, Corn Bread, and Pecan Pie. It sounds delicious and it’s free! Call (510) 234-5200 to reserve."
- Richmond Greenway, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., From 6th Street to 16th Street, between Ohio and Chanslor aves. Planting, pruning, urban farming, live music, entertainment, food, art projects, petting zoo. For more:Urban Tilth at 510-479-0960 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or at www.mlkdayrichmond.org
- Richmond, Happy Lot Farm and Garden's First Anniversary; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 45 1st Street (1st and Chanslor), Richmond. Garden projects and birthday cake! More: www.facebook.com/happylotfarmandgarden
- Pt. Pinole Regional Park, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet in the parking lot. Shoreline clean-up; free refreshments. Supplies provided. More:The Watershed Project at 510-214-6897, email@example.com.
- Hercules, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., free breakfast, key note speakers include journalist Belva Davis. and Dr. Denise Noldon, President of Conta Costa College; youth performances. Hercules Middle High School Auditorium, 1900 Refugio Valley Rd., Hercules.
Tuesday, Jan. 22
- Contra Costa County's 35th Annual MLK Commemoration & Humanitarian of the Year Awards,"Standing on the Shoulders of Giants;" keynote speaker Dr. Helen Benjamin, Chancellor CC Community College District. Board of Supervisors Chamber, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.,651 Pine Street, Martinez. More: Joan Carpenter at Supervisor Gioia's Office 510-374-3231.
Thursday, Jan. 24
- Contra Costa Community College, "Honoring Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement;" speakers include Supervisor Gioia; dance and gospel, student speeches. John & Jean Knox Center for the Performing Arts, corner of Castro Road and El Portal Drive on the CCC Campus, , 6-8 p.m. More: Michele Jackson, 510-235-7800 ext. 4341, or event flier
Patch thanks Contra Costa Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who provided most of the events listed above, along with this statement:
"The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. continues to have enormous significance today as he helped set in motion important ongoing national – and global – movements for equality based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, economics and more.
"Join me in honoring Dr. King at one of these great events planned for West Contra Costa."
The Holiday's History
King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and his birthday is celebrated as a national holiday on the third Monday in January. It's a holiday that took 15 years to create.
Legislation was first proposed by Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) four days after King was assassinated in 1968.
The bill was stalled, but Conyers, along with Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-New York), pushed for the holiday every legislative session until it was finally passed in 1983, following civil rights marches in Washington.
Then-president Ronald Reagan signed it into law. Yet it was not until 2000 that every U.S. state celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by its name. Before then, states like Utah referred to the holiday more broadly as Human Rights Day.
In 1994, Congress passed legislation encouraging the King federal holiday to be observed as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this national effort.
On the CNCS site, expresses it this way: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"
What does Martin Luther King Jr. Day mean to you? Are you planning to commemorate King’s legacy? You can tell us in the comments.