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Omicron Surge Prompts MLK Day Event Revisions, Cancellations Around the Bay

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Outdoor and in-person events organized by the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Foundation will be postponed until 2023 because of the potential spread of the omicron variant. Leaders gathered online with community members all weekend to honor the legacy of King and to highlight the relevance his message still holds in the current political climate.

"For us, 'Toward Justice' has to do with confronting those ills that are determined to counteract the dignity of every human being," said Aaron Grizzell, executive director of the foundation. "We're going to spend our entire year in that struggle and in that fight to move us toward a better place in this country and that material place that we can all feel and see is ensuring that everyone has the right to vote."

"Toward Justice" is the theme of this year's celebrations, which typically include a parade and music festival. The name is a reference to a famous quote by Dr. King: "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

Grizzell joined other speakers at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples on Sunday for a live-stream event.

"What are the things that block us from being the kind of community that we ought to be," Dr. Dorsey Odell Blake asked after his Sunday service. Blake is the presiding minister of the church. "King also talked about a different kind of distribution of wealth. Look at San Francisco and look at the difference between people in terms of wealth."

Blake often thinks about what could have happened if King had come to the Bay Area back when some at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples wanted the civil rights icon to move to California. Blake hopes members of his church feel the weight of history when remembering Dr. King's life.

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

Grizzell says he and other faith leaders spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this month to express their concerns about voting rights and the need for federal laws, given recent changes in some states. The message of the foundation this year, when in-person gatherings won't happen, is to wait until next year for the community to reunite. They do not believe the work on voting rights can wait and are calling on the public to engage with elected officials, on Monday and beyond.

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