MLK Day in Davis Brings in More Contemporary Look


mlk.jpgLast year at MLK Day in Davis, I expressed concerns about the way that MLK Day had functioned.  While there was a great audience for the event, I was increasingly concerned that the diversity that had been notable at previous years’ events had dissipated.

As I wrote last year, the problem I saw was the loss of the community-based outreach that we once had with the Human Relations Commission, prior to it being disbanded and then reconstituted in the summer of 2006.  I spoke at length to the council, highlighting my concerns with what had happened since the disbanding of the Human Relations Commission in 2006, and the disengagement of a number of sectors of Davis’ community from the MLK and other events.

Instead of simply complaining about the state of things, I decided to change things.  Treading very lightly, knowing the sensitivities that still exist from 2006, I applied for a position on the Human Relations Commission and was unanimously approved by the Davis City Council, first as an alternate and then last fall as a full member.

One of the things that we looked to do this year was to change the focus slightly.  The typical Martin Luther King Celebration features a memorial to Reverend King and the Civil Rights movement.  It is a great reminder of the man, but the legacy of the civil rights movement is often lost, as are more contemporary struggles.

This year’s 18th annual Davis Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration is being co-sponsored by the Davis Vanguard, which is contributing money to help bring Lecia Brooks, the Director of Outreach at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, as the Keynote Speaker.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.

Ms. Brooks leads the Center’s outreach efforts on key initiatives and social justice issues. As outreach director, she frequently gives presentations around the country to promote tolerance and diversity. She also serves as director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery. Ms. Brooks will be sharing her expertise about current racial issues across the country.

The hope is to put a more contemporary look to the event.

Along those lines, we are putting together a panel of prominent community members, who will be sharing their thoughts about race and racial issues in Davis.

In addition to Lecia Brooks who will be able to give us a national perspective, she will be joined by: Tilahun Yilma, a distinguished scholar at UC Davis in the field of Virology, who has been in our community since 1968; Desmond Jolly, a longtime and distinguished professor in Agriculture and a prominent community member who has been in our community over 40 years; Superintendent Winfred Roberson, who has been DJUSD Superintendent for about a year and a half and came to our community as a Davis High School principal; and  Osahon Ekhator, a former ASUCD Senator who served as Vice Chair of Ethnic and Cultural Affairs and has been in Davis since 2008.

This panel and discussion will take questions from a facilitator and will also attempt to answer questions from the audience.

The ongoing discussion about race figures to be thought-provoking, and hopefully this will be an educational opportunity for the community and all involved. The event will be on Monday, January 16, from 11:30am to 1:00pm at the Varsity Theatre.

There are so many issues that still remain in this community, from the achievement gap in our schools to concerns about differential treatment and discrimination, and hopefully this panel can touch on those issues plus give us a sense for how things have improved and what things we still need to work on.

It is my hope that with this exciting and different program we will reengage many in our community who have dropped out of the process in the last five years.  Obviously, not everything is going to change overnight. I can only hope this is the first step among many to have an honest and frank, but civil, discussion on issues that have in the past so divided us all.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David 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.

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7 thoughts on “MLK Day in Davis Brings in More Contemporary Look”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Superintendent Winfred Roberson, who has been Superintendent for about a year and a half and came to our community as a Davis High School Professor;[/quote]

    What the heck is a “Davis High School Professor”?

  2. David M. Greenwald

    That should be Principal.

    Unfortunately, Elaine didn’t catch the more egregious error – the lack of date and time, which is January 16, 11:30 to 1 at the varsity Theater in Davis.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]ERM, i got a late start on proofing. [/quote]
    [quote]That should be Principal. [/quote]

    No problem. Usually I can figure out what it was supposed to say, but for some reason couldn’t fathom what you could have possibly meant!

  4. JustSaying

    Congratulations on your leadership and the Vanguard’s contributions in this effort. It’s great to see you so positively engaged in improving Davis. This looks like a really interesting panel of speakers.

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