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Bay Area Honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. With Marches, Virtual Gatherings, Community Service

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) - More than 50 years since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., realizing his dream is still a challenge across the country, but the cause remains more relevant than ever to people around the Bay Area as they marked the day in his honor.

"Go back and sort of look at what happened with the people who stood up, who stood up and said we can't wait any longer, we have to move," said Dr. Dorsey Odell Blake, the presiding minister at The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, in San Francisco.

While the traditional outdoor events like a march and music festival were cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns as the Omicron variant continues to spread in the region, the Northern California Dr. MLK Jr. Foundation focused on a theme of "Toward Justice" with the community virtually.

"We are making a concerted and continual push for Congress to pass voting rights," said Aaron Grizzell, the executive director of the foundation.

In El Cerrito, the annual caravan did take place with a few community members participating on horseback and others driving their cars together.

"We are honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King by creating an event where we are having conversations about equity and how our artistic practices can be a part of that movement," said Esther Young of the School of Arts of Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, in San Jose.

The discussion on how to be more inclusive was only part of the day of political action for some Bay Area residents. Others made the holiday a time for community service. Volunteers handed out supplies, including sleeping bags for the homeless, in Santa Clara County.

"I think Dr. King would say the same thing, if you can't take care of the most vulnerable, then you're failing God, and you're failing your community," said Pastor Scott Wagers of Community Homeless Alliance Ministry (CHAM).

Before the pandemic, the celebration of MLK Day included a stop at the memorial for Dr. King, in San Francisco, by the annual march. While there was no official gathering there on Monday, some still went there to bring attention to the issues they believe King would still be fighting for today.

"All of the grassroots activists who have been working on voting rights should not celebrate MLK Day this year but instead have political actions on the ground," said Nancy Latham, a community organizer working on voting rights.

People also walked through the large, outdoor Martin Luther King Memorial in Yerba Buena Gardens, on Monday, to listen to the voice of Dr. King while under the sculpture's waterfall. A chance to hear the words that keep pushing people forward in the mission of the civil rights icon.

"Every year when I think of King, I think of hope, when he talked about the fact that I may not get there with you, but we as a people shall get to this promised land," Dr. Blake said.

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