Annual Oroville celebration highlights Martin Luther King Jr’s ideals
By Barbara Arrigoni, Oroville Mercury Register
Posted: 01/19/15, 5:22 PM PST
People listen while Ajamu Lamumba Monday recites excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr’s. speech “I’ve been to the mountaintop” during the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Southside Community Center in Oroville. Bill Husa — Enterprise-Record
Oroville >> The words of Martin Luther King Jr. rang out Monday morning as people in Oroville gathered at the Southside Community Center to honor his legacy and inspire one another to better things.
King died 47 years ago from an assassin’s bullet, but on Monday, his dreams, philosophies and phrases came to life. He was a minister, author and leader of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The celebration began early with a pancake breakfast provided by youth from the Boys & Girls Club, churches and teenagers who just showed up to help.
More than 100 people attended the 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Though it was mainly a commemoration of The the civil rights leader, it also felt like a church service, with speakers, singers and dancers honoring both King and the Lord.
Ajamu Lamumba was the first speaker. At past celebrations, he recited King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but this year he took a “slight deviation” to give excerpts from the speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”
The “Mountaintop” speech was King’s last address, given April 3, 1968 at the Memphis Masonic Temple in Tennessee. He was struck down and died the next day.
Lamumba spoke with a deep, booming voice as he read. King stated that though there was trouble and confusion in the land, “Only when it’s dark enough, can you see the stars.”
King called for people to “rise up with a greater readiness, stand with a greater determination, to make America what it ought to be.”
There would be difficult days ahead,” Lamumba read, “but it really doesn’t matter now, because I’ve been to the mountain top.”
Although King’s example and words were spoken throughout the celebration, some speakers addressed things the community has accomplished and what people can do in the future.
U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa said his favorite line by King, which he paraphrased, is “judge not a man by the color of his skin but by his character.”
“Isn’t that the bottom line?” he asked.
LaMalfa noted that there was obviously a lot of strife in King’s day, but that there are still some battles going on today.
“All people are created equal,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what your group is or the color of your skin, everybody wants the same thing.”
The congressman also said diversity is the community’s strength, but it needs to be channeled toward unity and teamwork.
“Everybody’s got to be pulling in the same direction for that team to work,” LaMalfa said.
District Attorney Mike Ramsey said he was proud to be among those King referred to as the “drum majors for justice.”
“It’s today with a great deal of pride ... we set aside and honor the memory of Dr. King,” Ramsey said.
He also honored the memory of Anita Bell, who dedicated her life to justice and love for the community of Oroville.
“Anita, like Dr. King, had an abiding certainty in the essential goodness of humankind ... and that all lives matter,” Ramsey said.
Bobby Jones, director of the African American Family and Cultural Center spoke about his dream and vision of having a safe place for people of all colors, and to give joy.
“I look at us as being navigators for human beings ...,” he said. “Our job is, we want to help people ease on down the yellow brick road of life.”
Jones also tasked the audience to help neighbors and educate the children.
“We want to make this a better place for all,” he said.
The keynote speaker was Clifford Thompson, a Las Plumas High School graduate who became a school principal, an assistant professor and an author. He is also a minister at a church in Oakland, but he returns to Oroville every year for the King celebration.
He challenged the audience to think of how they fit into the puzzle of life, using some examples of things King stood for.
“King wanted us to find solutions to how to make a better world,” Thompson said. “He wanted us to love one another, to live together in unity and harmony. He wanted us to maximize the potential in each of us.”
Referring to King’s book, “Strength to Love,” Thompson said King wrote that people need to have a tender heart and a tough mind.
“Another point King stands on (is) not allowing the status quo to dictate who you are,” Thompson continued. “Dr. King reminds us we are not to be conformed to this world...If we want to make a difference, we have to be the difference.”
Thompson also said King spent a great deal of time looking at the concept of a neighbor, whether it is the person living next door, someone of the same race or culture, or something else.
“Your neighbor is anyone who lies on the proverbial roadside of need,” Thompson said.
He then spoke about love, using a story about how one person’s focus was on helping others and showing love, while another man’s thoughts were on the bad things in the world.
“I dare say, there is indeed some good in every single one of us,” Thompson said. “We might have to look hard for it, but it’s there.”
Thompson ended by saying that King was a regular man, who had faults, took some missteps and faced formidable challenges, but who trusted in God.
“Dr. King was the quintessential example for us all to follow,” Thompson said. “He fought for the rights of all people.”
The celebration concluded with scholarship awards for several students chosen by the Martin Luther King Jr. steering committee. Certificates and $500 scholarships went to Aubrianna Queen, Bryce Gold, Rebekah Qualls-Neal, Chelsey Ward, Kendra Rudy, Paja Thao, and Sophia Thao.