MLK Day in Davis

One of my first memories of MLK Day was actually before it became a national holiday. I was in grade school in St. Louis, Missouri in 1981. There was an assembly and we watched a video on Martin Luther King, Jr. Then at recess we had a fire drill–which we all thought was strange. It turned out it was an actual fire. Someone had set fire to the MLK Day display. This was at a school that was majority African-American and I was in the minority. I didn’t understand why someone would do that, but it has stuck with me all of these years.

The last year in Davis has been marred by at sometimes a bitter divide in this community. The Human Relations Commission, as everyone knows by now, continued to push the issue of civilian police oversight past the point that the City Council wanted to hear it. They dismissed all the members and put the commission itself on hiatus.

In September, they appointed new members to the commission. But things were different. The commission previously had been the most diverse in this city, representing at times six or seven or even more ethnicities and religious groups. On the other hand, the new commission is nearly devoid of any minorities.

I have been to many MLK Days in the past in Davis; they are a time of great joy and celebration in this community. They bring out large and diverse groups of people with powerful messages of hope and progress but also the message of an unfinished journey–that we still have work to do.

And I say today that here in Davis, California we still have work to do.

This was the first time in some time that I did not go to the Official City Event. I was not the only one. Most of the minority community stayed home, the fights from last year too bitter and the wounds too fresh. And while it appears that the speakers at the event–Retired Police UC Davis Chief Calvin Handy and Author and Activist Sandy Holman–delivered outstanding speeches, there was something missing. Observers describe it devoid of the soul and culture that has come with past events.

There was no planned boycott by those in the minority community. Most folks just stayed home. This city has a lot of work to do to rebuild those bridges. Unfortunately, at the council meeting last night, Councilmember Stephen Souza spoke about what a great event this was. Perhaps to him it was. To many in the minority community, who angrily called me yesterday, the picture on the front page of the Davis Enterprise spoke louder than any word. Go look at it yourself; it is a beautiful picture of the future of Davis marching for Dr. King. There is just one thing missing.

For those who like me, skipped the day time event and went to the evening’s award ceremony organized by Mel Trujillo, you saw a very different picture. At the Cantina Del Cabo, there were at least 300 people that evening raising money for a scholarship fund to put young minorities into college. There is something very special about young minority students and their drive to go to college, and the pride that they take in being able to get an education.

Eleven students received scholarships and eleven adults from a wide cross-section of people received awards.

This was the MLK event. Little black boys and black girls sat down with little white boys and white girls (okay some weren’t so little but you get the picture).

While I am certain I will miss someone (and if I do please let me know), but there were many public officials at this event including Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, two Supervisors–Helen Thomson and Mariko Yamada; three city councilmembers including Mayor Sue Greenwald, and councilmembers Lamar Heystek and Don Saylor; three school board members Jim Provenza, Tim Taylor, and Gina Daleiden. There were many former officials–too many to name (and I don’t want to miss any). Also there was former Police Chief Jerry Gonzalez as well as former UC Davis Police Chief Calvin Handy.

There were some touching awards and outstanding speeches. This was the true spirit of MLK day and the minority community came out in mass.

Finally, I must say I agree with Bob Dunning’s column–I wouldn’t say as he did, that it was the only thing missing from the Varsity Event (as my friend so aptly put, it was a little melanin deprived). However, the crux of his message was correct. “Honor Martin Luther King Jr. and not utter a simple prayer? … you may as well rewrite history … it’s like honoring Babe Ruth and not mentioning baseball …” Exactly Mr. Dunning.

The nice thing about MLK Day is that for once we do not need to fight over religion. At most events, I think prayers can be divisive (as much as they could be made inclusive) since they will argue as to why we favored one religion over another—but when you are honoring a Reverend, prayer is in order. And you solve the question about whose prayer to use. I’m Jewish, but guess what, it is perfectly appropriate to have a Christian Prayer in order to honor the great Martin Luther King, Jr. Those who want to re-write history need to remember that the civil rights movement was not possible without the mobilization ability of the black churches in the south or the leadership of the black clergy. That the very foundations of civil disobedience derive from Christian origins. The ideal of loving one’s enemy comes from Mathew. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” The ideal of love in this sense was so powerful that it changed the hearts and minds of America. The ideal of turning the cheek and not returning hate with hate, but instead, returning it was love and understanding was so powerful that the forces of hatred were beaten back and none of that was possible without the religious convictions and faith of Martin Luther King, Jr. and many of his followers. And so when we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., it is perfectly appropriate to honor his religious foundation.

The City Council of the City of Davis spoke of the need to heal this city and bring unity. However, they have a long way to go. You do not create unity by stifling dissent. You do not create unity by dividing and conquering. You do not create unity by trying to get rid of the problem. Instead, you need open and honest discourse with all sides. You need inclusion. You need to bring the minority community back into the fold and you cannot do that as things are current situated. The divide in this town has grown greater, not smaller. We saw the power of the diversity of this community on Monday night and we saw the strength of their convictions that each person voted with their feet which event embodied the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Civil Rights

28 comments

  1. The evening event was as enjoyable as it was educational. Those in attendance heard from respected leaders in our community talk about their struggle to get an education and about why they chose to move to Davis where they would be one of very few black families. Mr. Singleton described how he disbursed his children to different schools so they would not group together. “Go out and meet people! Make friends!” As a result, his family ended up knowing everyone in town. Cruz Reynoso talked about the Poor People’s Project in Washington, DC, something that Martin Luther King Jr had begun and people had to just carry on after his death despite their grief. Others talked about the hatred directed toward King and how he continued to work for social justice despite the anger, violence and hatred directed at him. Mel Ramey talked about being one of two black professors at UCD and how his biggest impact was not on the black students who would attend UCD, but rather on the white students who had never experience a black man in a position of authority. The evening was wonderful.

  2. The evening event was as enjoyable as it was educational. Those in attendance heard from respected leaders in our community talk about their struggle to get an education and about why they chose to move to Davis where they would be one of very few black families. Mr. Singleton described how he disbursed his children to different schools so they would not group together. “Go out and meet people! Make friends!” As a result, his family ended up knowing everyone in town. Cruz Reynoso talked about the Poor People’s Project in Washington, DC, something that Martin Luther King Jr had begun and people had to just carry on after his death despite their grief. Others talked about the hatred directed toward King and how he continued to work for social justice despite the anger, violence and hatred directed at him. Mel Ramey talked about being one of two black professors at UCD and how his biggest impact was not on the black students who would attend UCD, but rather on the white students who had never experience a black man in a position of authority. The evening was wonderful.

  3. The evening event was as enjoyable as it was educational. Those in attendance heard from respected leaders in our community talk about their struggle to get an education and about why they chose to move to Davis where they would be one of very few black families. Mr. Singleton described how he disbursed his children to different schools so they would not group together. “Go out and meet people! Make friends!” As a result, his family ended up knowing everyone in town. Cruz Reynoso talked about the Poor People’s Project in Washington, DC, something that Martin Luther King Jr had begun and people had to just carry on after his death despite their grief. Others talked about the hatred directed toward King and how he continued to work for social justice despite the anger, violence and hatred directed at him. Mel Ramey talked about being one of two black professors at UCD and how his biggest impact was not on the black students who would attend UCD, but rather on the white students who had never experience a black man in a position of authority. The evening was wonderful.

  4. The evening event was as enjoyable as it was educational. Those in attendance heard from respected leaders in our community talk about their struggle to get an education and about why they chose to move to Davis where they would be one of very few black families. Mr. Singleton described how he disbursed his children to different schools so they would not group together. “Go out and meet people! Make friends!” As a result, his family ended up knowing everyone in town. Cruz Reynoso talked about the Poor People’s Project in Washington, DC, something that Martin Luther King Jr had begun and people had to just carry on after his death despite their grief. Others talked about the hatred directed toward King and how he continued to work for social justice despite the anger, violence and hatred directed at him. Mel Ramey talked about being one of two black professors at UCD and how his biggest impact was not on the black students who would attend UCD, but rather on the white students who had never experience a black man in a position of authority. The evening was wonderful.

  5. David, I am sorry I could not make the scholarship fund dinner and hear the words of those who were being honored because I was not feeling well, from what I have heard it was a wonderful event just as the afternoon event was. Both events occurring on the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both events were attended by members of our community to honor Dr. King and his everlasting message of equality, acceptance, justice, peace and unity. He wanted all of us to work together no matter what time of the day it is.

    To me the day of honor of Dr. King was not about was this event or that event better or attended by this person or that person. The day is about the dream of Dr. King and all that we can do or say to remember we are bothers and sisters on this planet working in our own ways towards a reality of community.

  6. David, I am sorry I could not make the scholarship fund dinner and hear the words of those who were being honored because I was not feeling well, from what I have heard it was a wonderful event just as the afternoon event was. Both events occurring on the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both events were attended by members of our community to honor Dr. King and his everlasting message of equality, acceptance, justice, peace and unity. He wanted all of us to work together no matter what time of the day it is.

    To me the day of honor of Dr. King was not about was this event or that event better or attended by this person or that person. The day is about the dream of Dr. King and all that we can do or say to remember we are bothers and sisters on this planet working in our own ways towards a reality of community.

  7. David, I am sorry I could not make the scholarship fund dinner and hear the words of those who were being honored because I was not feeling well, from what I have heard it was a wonderful event just as the afternoon event was. Both events occurring on the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both events were attended by members of our community to honor Dr. King and his everlasting message of equality, acceptance, justice, peace and unity. He wanted all of us to work together no matter what time of the day it is.

    To me the day of honor of Dr. King was not about was this event or that event better or attended by this person or that person. The day is about the dream of Dr. King and all that we can do or say to remember we are bothers and sisters on this planet working in our own ways towards a reality of community.

  8. David, I am sorry I could not make the scholarship fund dinner and hear the words of those who were being honored because I was not feeling well, from what I have heard it was a wonderful event just as the afternoon event was. Both events occurring on the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both events were attended by members of our community to honor Dr. King and his everlasting message of equality, acceptance, justice, peace and unity. He wanted all of us to work together no matter what time of the day it is.

    To me the day of honor of Dr. King was not about was this event or that event better or attended by this person or that person. The day is about the dream of Dr. King and all that we can do or say to remember we are bothers and sisters on this planet working in our own ways towards a reality of community.

  9. What happened is that there was a long drawn out dispute between the council and the Human Relations commission over the issue of police oversight. The Human Relations Commission is charged with among other things investigating complaints about discrimination. The Council, including the gentleman who posted above, Mr. Souza, determined that it was in the best interest of the city to disband that commission, remove its membership, put it on hiatus, and bring it back with new membership and a new charge. The minority community was furious about those developments, and individually decided not to attend this year’s MLK event sponsored by the city of Davis and new Human Relations Commission.

  10. What happened is that there was a long drawn out dispute between the council and the Human Relations commission over the issue of police oversight. The Human Relations Commission is charged with among other things investigating complaints about discrimination. The Council, including the gentleman who posted above, Mr. Souza, determined that it was in the best interest of the city to disband that commission, remove its membership, put it on hiatus, and bring it back with new membership and a new charge. The minority community was furious about those developments, and individually decided not to attend this year’s MLK event sponsored by the city of Davis and new Human Relations Commission.

  11. What happened is that there was a long drawn out dispute between the council and the Human Relations commission over the issue of police oversight. The Human Relations Commission is charged with among other things investigating complaints about discrimination. The Council, including the gentleman who posted above, Mr. Souza, determined that it was in the best interest of the city to disband that commission, remove its membership, put it on hiatus, and bring it back with new membership and a new charge. The minority community was furious about those developments, and individually decided not to attend this year’s MLK event sponsored by the city of Davis and new Human Relations Commission.

  12. What happened is that there was a long drawn out dispute between the council and the Human Relations commission over the issue of police oversight. The Human Relations Commission is charged with among other things investigating complaints about discrimination. The Council, including the gentleman who posted above, Mr. Souza, determined that it was in the best interest of the city to disband that commission, remove its membership, put it on hiatus, and bring it back with new membership and a new charge. The minority community was furious about those developments, and individually decided not to attend this year’s MLK event sponsored by the city of Davis and new Human Relations Commission.

  13. “The minority community was furious about those developments, and individually decided not to attend this year’s MLK event sponsored by the city of Davis and new Human Relations Commission.”

    The minority community was furious? Or was a small segment of the minority community with ties to Cecilia Greenwald furious? Clearly you are furious. And clearly you have ties to Mrs. Greenwald.

    Davis has 64,259 people. Of them, 19,213 are non-whites. How many of these minorities attended last year’s festivities? Fifty? One Hundred?

    Even if it was 200, that would only represent one percent of the minority community. Were 99 percent of the minorities in Davis furious last year? Or maybe most had other things to do, beside this event, both last year and this year.

    It seems terribly presumptuous for you to speak on behalf of “the minority community” in Davis, when at most you only know a very small handful, and the handful you know share your unique perspective or, like you, even have family members who were involved in the controversies of the Human Relations Commission.

    Maybe there was a boycott among this segment of the minorities of Davis. But those individuals are a very small segment of the 19,213 to begin with.

  14. “The minority community was furious about those developments, and individually decided not to attend this year’s MLK event sponsored by the city of Davis and new Human Relations Commission.”

    The minority community was furious? Or was a small segment of the minority community with ties to Cecilia Greenwald furious? Clearly you are furious. And clearly you have ties to Mrs. Greenwald.

    Davis has 64,259 people. Of them, 19,213 are non-whites. How many of these minorities attended last year’s festivities? Fifty? One Hundred?

    Even if it was 200, that would only represent one percent of the minority community. Were 99 percent of the minorities in Davis furious last year? Or maybe most had other things to do, beside this event, both last year and this year.

    It seems terribly presumptuous for you to speak on behalf of “the minority community” in Davis, when at most you only know a very small handful, and the handful you know share your unique perspective or, like you, even have family members who were involved in the controversies of the Human Relations Commission.

    Maybe there was a boycott among this segment of the minorities of Davis. But those individuals are a very small segment of the 19,213 to begin with.

  15. “The minority community was furious about those developments, and individually decided not to attend this year’s MLK event sponsored by the city of Davis and new Human Relations Commission.”

    The minority community was furious? Or was a small segment of the minority community with ties to Cecilia Greenwald furious? Clearly you are furious. And clearly you have ties to Mrs. Greenwald.

    Davis has 64,259 people. Of them, 19,213 are non-whites. How many of these minorities attended last year’s festivities? Fifty? One Hundred?

    Even if it was 200, that would only represent one percent of the minority community. Were 99 percent of the minorities in Davis furious last year? Or maybe most had other things to do, beside this event, both last year and this year.

    It seems terribly presumptuous for you to speak on behalf of “the minority community” in Davis, when at most you only know a very small handful, and the handful you know share your unique perspective or, like you, even have family members who were involved in the controversies of the Human Relations Commission.

    Maybe there was a boycott among this segment of the minorities of Davis. But those individuals are a very small segment of the 19,213 to begin with.

  16. “The minority community was furious about those developments, and individually decided not to attend this year’s MLK event sponsored by the city of Davis and new Human Relations Commission.”

    The minority community was furious? Or was a small segment of the minority community with ties to Cecilia Greenwald furious? Clearly you are furious. And clearly you have ties to Mrs. Greenwald.

    Davis has 64,259 people. Of them, 19,213 are non-whites. How many of these minorities attended last year’s festivities? Fifty? One Hundred?

    Even if it was 200, that would only represent one percent of the minority community. Were 99 percent of the minorities in Davis furious last year? Or maybe most had other things to do, beside this event, both last year and this year.

    It seems terribly presumptuous for you to speak on behalf of “the minority community” in Davis, when at most you only know a very small handful, and the handful you know share your unique perspective or, like you, even have family members who were involved in the controversies of the Human Relations Commission.

    Maybe there was a boycott among this segment of the minorities of Davis. But those individuals are a very small segment of the 19,213 to begin with.

  17. The way one would normally judge an event versus a non-event is the have a comparable scale of participation in a normal year and then compare that level of participation to that of a year in question. By that measure, there was a significantly lower attendance in the minority this year versus other years.

    Is that due to that segment of the community having ties to Escamilla Greenwald? That’s quite possible.

    But if that’s our baseline here, then we should discontinue this event altogether because only a very small percentage of the city participate.

    Or maybe you believe as I do that the participation by a small number of people is important and that the segment of the population that did not show up is telling.

    You are free to believe what you want to about this, but I believe I have solid evidence to demonstrate a change in behavior due to a particular event that occurred in the past.

  18. The way one would normally judge an event versus a non-event is the have a comparable scale of participation in a normal year and then compare that level of participation to that of a year in question. By that measure, there was a significantly lower attendance in the minority this year versus other years.

    Is that due to that segment of the community having ties to Escamilla Greenwald? That’s quite possible.

    But if that’s our baseline here, then we should discontinue this event altogether because only a very small percentage of the city participate.

    Or maybe you believe as I do that the participation by a small number of people is important and that the segment of the population that did not show up is telling.

    You are free to believe what you want to about this, but I believe I have solid evidence to demonstrate a change in behavior due to a particular event that occurred in the past.

  19. The way one would normally judge an event versus a non-event is the have a comparable scale of participation in a normal year and then compare that level of participation to that of a year in question. By that measure, there was a significantly lower attendance in the minority this year versus other years.

    Is that due to that segment of the community having ties to Escamilla Greenwald? That’s quite possible.

    But if that’s our baseline here, then we should discontinue this event altogether because only a very small percentage of the city participate.

    Or maybe you believe as I do that the participation by a small number of people is important and that the segment of the population that did not show up is telling.

    You are free to believe what you want to about this, but I believe I have solid evidence to demonstrate a change in behavior due to a particular event that occurred in the past.

  20. The way one would normally judge an event versus a non-event is the have a comparable scale of participation in a normal year and then compare that level of participation to that of a year in question. By that measure, there was a significantly lower attendance in the minority this year versus other years.

    Is that due to that segment of the community having ties to Escamilla Greenwald? That’s quite possible.

    But if that’s our baseline here, then we should discontinue this event altogether because only a very small percentage of the city participate.

    Or maybe you believe as I do that the participation by a small number of people is important and that the segment of the population that did not show up is telling.

    You are free to believe what you want to about this, but I believe I have solid evidence to demonstrate a change in behavior due to a particular event that occurred in the past.

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