People of all ages came together Saturday afternoon in Paso Robles to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The annual celebration began as it always does with a peaceful march of roughly 100 people from the California Mid-State Fairgrounds to the Flamson Middle School Auditorium around noon.
After lunch, the celebration moved inside the auditorium where nearly 400 people mingled in the lobby before taking a seat in the lower and upper levels of the auditorium.
The City of Paso Robles Community Services Department, Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee and the Paso Robles Ministerial Association sponsored the event that featured speakers, singing, dancing
The walls of the lobby featured student artwork related to the theme — “I Am...Because of His Legacy.” The history of Martin Luther King Jr. was also portrayed by students on posterboard.
One of the most moving moments of the celebration came nearly halfway through during a performance of “The Black Queens.” The play was written by Nicholas Skinner specifically for the celebration.
Five women gave poignant and deeply moving monologues while portraying Rosa Parks, Myrlie Evers, Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz
Emcee Bobby Horn kept things light and fun throughout the two-hour celebration as he moved the program along.
Dr. Joye Carter, who is the first-fulltime medical examiner for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, was once again the inspirational speaker. She walked onto the stage signing the legendary Aretha Franklin song “Respect,” also a favorite of MLK Jr. The crowd clapped to the beat and joined in on the chorus.
Her uplifting and energetic message centered on the history of the song, self-respect and included some tips for parents.
She explained that Franklin was a big supporter of King Jr. and he gave her flowers when he visited her in Detroit in 1968, the same year the iconic civil rights champion was assassinated. Franklin sang at his memorial.
“Respect” was originally written by Otis Redding.
“The song became an anthem for the Black civil rights movement, especially when Aretha sang it,” Carter said. “Aretha Franklin’s version was considered a demand from a strong confident woman, knew what she possessed, everything that a man wanted and she demanded respect for it.”
She joked that “there was one phrase in the song I just don’t sing and that’s ‘giving you all of my money.’ Not going to happen.”
Then she transitioned to the importance of King Jr. and self-respect.
“Embodied in most of Dr. King’s speeches was the awakening of self-respect that allows a person to toss off the yoke of oppression and come to feel that they are somebody worthy of equal treatment and respect,” Carter said. “Self-respect is about self-love, that feeling of self-worth that protects our fragile emotional stability when life does not treat us fairly.”
Carter is the first African-American to be appointed a Chief Medical Examiner in the history of the United States. She previously worked as the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner Department, Chief Medical Examiner of the District of Columbia, and Chief Medical Examiner of Harris County, Texas.
Carter spoke of how her parents pushed her to reach her full potential.
“Parents I’m talking to you. Stop trying to be your child’s best friend,” Carter said. “Children need guidance, love
She urged parents to instill “a sense of morality into their offspring. And children and young people if you don’t get it at home keep mind open and open a book and read and learn that people all come from the same.
“And while some of us say races, I’m here to tell you besides the Indy 500 there is but one race, it’s called human,” Carter said toward the end of her 20-plus minute talk.
The Paso Robles High School Black Student Union spoke of the history and significance of the Black National Anthem.
Art awards were handed out by PRJUSD Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Gaviola and teacher Daniel Parks to middle and elementary school students.
Paso Robles High School student Juliet Corwin read her first-place essay to the crowd and the event concluded with a rendition of “We Are The World” by Vicky Mullin and the Singing Hands choir.