Community member asks for more compassion in Paso Robles

PASO ROBLES — The community filtered into the Paso Robles City Park on Monday, Jan. 16, to remember and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK Day). 

Centered in the park gazebo, the community listened to a recording of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Committee member Lovella Walker introduced this year’s celebration theme, “The Power of Love — Starting a Chain Reaction.”

MLK Day is observed on the third Monday of January, as his birthday is on Jan. 15. King, born in 1929, would have been 94 years old. The holiday is often used to honor the life and legacy of the civil rights leader.

New Light Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Gary Jordan led the community in a prayer, saying, “I see a progression toward the world becoming a village and that’s the residual from this experience. What he started then has spread for generations, and it will continue to spread because of the love ethic and what it means to communities and what it means to the people that represent the world.”

Jordan was followed by the Paso Robles High School Choir performing the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) the anthem is a “hymn written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson in 1900.”

Community members then presented their own ideas to start a chain reaction. 

Paso Robles High School alumna and basketball coach Netta Perkins addressed the crowd, asking the community to embrace people who may seem different. 

“I would like to see more compassion for those of us that are different,” said Perkins. “I wish this community would embrace the different sexual orientations, gender identities, and so many other differences in this town. If we all have a little more patience and understanding of one another, I think that can go a long ways.”

Some Paso Robles High School students were recognized for their participation in an art contest in the lead-up to the celebration. Taylor Keep came in first place with her artwork depicting Dr. King and his message to the world. Her artwork was displayed on the celebration’s program. 

Following closing remarks, rain returned to Paso Robles as the celebration attendees prepared for their march around downtown. Drummers of the Paso Robles High School marching band led the march around the park. The original marching route around downtown was cut short as the rain picked up.

Photos by Camille DeVaul/PRP