Communities Gather in Remembrance of Martin Luther King

( [email protected] ) Jan 13, 2004 09:09 AM EST

Many communities in Modesto, California, are planning special events in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. by presenting readings of his words, poetry, music, and parades. Nobel Peace Prize winner, King’s birthday Jan. 19 is remembered as a national holiday.

According to, a community event honoring King will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 19 at Modesto's Christian Love Baptist Church.

The event features Vernard Gant, director of Urban School Services for the Association of Christian Schools International. Gant, is the former executive director of the Children's Scholarship Fund of Alabama which is a national organization that helps low- to moderate-income families attend schools of their choice.

Gant will be speaking about civil rights, King's dream for the future and how it relates to education, said the Rev. James M. Anderson, pastor of Christian Love Baptist Church.

"It's a community event, and everyone is invited," Anderson said. "It is not a church activity just because it is held at a church."

"(King's) message is what we keep trying to convey to the public," Anderson said. "We celebrate King because he brought the message. We are trying to keep the dreams alive, including those that weren't realized (in King's lifetime)."

The 19th annual event, with no charge, will also include poetry recitations, music, public officials, and Velinda Moore performing spirituals.

Also another event honoring Martin Luther King Jr. will be held at Modesto Junior College. Author and philosopher Cornel West is invited to speak at the event which will be held in the Modesto Junior College auditorium at 7p.m. Jan. 24.

West is the author of several books, among them the bestselling "Race Matters" -- also the title of his MJC presentation.

West, who was raised in Sacramento and is the son of a Baptist minister, is a professor of religion at Princeton University. He also taught African-American studies and the philosophy of religion at Harvard and Yale universities and Union Theological Seminary.

"His work as a scholar and his commentary on the social, political, religious and philosophical issues of the time is quite provocative," said Tommie Muhammad, social services program supervisor at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center.

His speech is expected to "explore how the growing divisions in our society foster despair and distrust that undermine our democracy," organizers said. He will also share his own stories about how King made an impact on his life.

Jim Costello, a member of the event committee, explained that the goal in having such renown speakers for the event is to inspire the community by providing role models and "keep the message of Martin Luther King alive.”

"A lot of kids today don't really know much about him; they weren't alive when he was," Costello said. "His message of nonviolence and working for peace and justice needs to be kept in the spotlight."

The 10th MJC event includes a performance by the Modesto Community Choir, video about King, music, and a question-and-answer period with West, who will sign books afterward at the Student Center Lounge. Books will be for sale in the auditorium foyer and at the signing.

The event is sponsored by Modesto Junior College; California State University, Stanislaus; city of Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department; Modesto Peace-Life Center; The Modesto Bee; Frailing, Rockwell & Kelly; Kaiser Permanente; Blue Cross of California; and the Modesto Irrigation District.

Its diverse sponsors reveal organizers' intent to dislodge "the mind-set that the celebration of Martin Luther King's birth was a black holiday or an African-American holiday," Muhammad said. "It is an American holiday, and we are celebrating the birth of a great American who fought and stood on great principles, American principles that are worded in our Constitution."