Illustration | Brittany England
Hayward city and school officials, and newly appointed mayor Barbara Halliday greeted the Hayward community as they came together at Chabot College to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday for the 29th year running.
Halliday introduced the event and welcomed dignitaries such as Senator Bob Wieckowski, Hayward’s former Mayor Michael Sweeney, and Hayward Unified School District’s superintendent Stan Dobbs.
Audience members applauded and stood as they welcomed the first guest speaker of the night, the director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, Dr. Clayborne Carson on stage.
Carson, was selected in 1985 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King to edit and publish the papers of her late husband. Carson devoted most of his professional career to the study of Martin Luther King Jr. and the movements he inspired.
“I have been to every King celebration over the last 30 years, but this one, this year, holds a very special meaning,” said Carson, his first words to the audience. “This year is special. Part of it is because of the film Selma– it’s only taken Hollywood 50 years to recognize how important the movement was.”
He continued to attribute this year’s holiday as being different because of the Ferguson riots, Michael Brown shooting, and the continuous police brutality that America has seen over the last year alone.
Carson mentioned that one of the best ways to remedy the issues of race that America faces is to handle it the same way King did by starting a movement.
“One of the greatest gifts that Martin gave us was an insurance that there is non-violent ways of dealing with deep rooted, long lasting problems,” said Carson.
As Carson finished his speech, he quoted King’s “But if Not” sermon about bravery and reminded the audience to take a stand for social justice as King did 50 years ago.
Besides keynote speaker Dr. Carson, this Martin Luther King Jr. celebration featured additional performers and presenters as well. The free community event featured a jazz band, a 120-person choir, and two-step teams from local schools in the Hayward Unified School District. The event even included CSUEB’s Iota Phi Theta Fraternity’s step team as well.
“The [event’s] planning committee celebrates one member of the community who emulates the spirit of Dr. King in the work that they do in the community,” said Hayward City Parks and Recreation coordinator and committee member Zach Ebadi.
The committee honored Cal State East Bay’s chief of police, Sheryl Boykins, with this year’s community award. Boykins started her career as an officer in Hayward and moved her way up to chief over the years. She has been rooted in the community through her police work, her advocacy for youth, and the youth program she started, Junior Giants.
“My favorite [part] was the guest speaker, and just seeing so many people show up to a community event. It’s important that kids know the importance of community,” said event attendee Julie Nguyen.
At the end of the celebration, Mt. Eden’s choir led the audience through Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday Song.” As the lyrics, “We’ll make the dream become a reality, I know we will,” was sung by event attendees, event master of ceremonies Michael Sweeney informed the crowd that he could even feel Dr. King’s spirit alive in the room.