Good Morning Bakersfield. It is Saturday, January 30, 2016…..a good day to be a Renegade.
We all have our traditions. One of mine is listening to Martin Luther King‘s I have a Dream speech (about 14 minutes long) on Martin Luther King day–this year on Jan 18th. Take a moment to listen to the speech and read his words here:
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
Early in his 1963 speech, Dr. King harkens back to Five score years ago, 1863, and Abraham Lincoln‘s short and powerful Gettysburg address.
Here it is:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
In Bakersfield there are several events that occur during Martin Luther King Day. More than 350 people poured into Bakersfield’s MLK Community Center Jan. 18th to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, and further his message. Among those assembled, proud BC Renegades gathered to celebrate with local community leaders, and to offer support in striving for equity and justice.
The focus of the 10th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Award Breakfast was “enriching our millennium with future foot soldiers.” And that desire to stand shoulder to shoulder and further a noble cause was in full display during this wonderful event.
Following Mayor Harvey Hall’s opening proclamation, a unified rendition of the National Black Anthem and an incredible solo performance, Senior Pastor Reverend Dr. Vincent Karl Jones of the historic People’s Missionary Baptist Church of Bakersfield addressed the audience in a thought-provoking and inspiring speech.
Rev. Jones led the group to first grapple with the challenging political landscape that exists for many today, and then to reconcile those challenges with a call to action. The solution to the problems of today, he said, is oneness. With unity, communication, and love, Rev. Jones believes that even the most divisive of issues can resolve to a place of peace and understanding.
In closing, Rev. Jones refocused on Dr. King’s legacy of action and service. “It is our challenge,” Rev. Jones reminded the crowd, “to lead this nation beyond picking up trash in the community, but to a place where we stop trashing our community.” He exited the stage to a standing ovation and roaring applause.
The planning committee recognized several local community leaders for the work they do in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Multiple awardees are BC alumni, and we are fortunate to call awardee Clarence Stephens, a volunteer Assistant Coach for the BC women’s basketball team, one of our own! Clarence was recognized for his support of young athletes in the community.
Martin Luther King concluded his speech in the following way:
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
I am proud of our work at Bakersfield College, working with the community of Bakersfield, in our own way, letting freedom ring from Panorama Bluffs, through education and our work together, for we are speeding that day called for in Dr. King’s stirring words.
Let me wrap up with a Youtube video of My County Tis of Thee
Tagged: Abraham Lincoln, Bakersfield College, Clarence Stephens, Community Award Breakfast, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fitzgerald Graves, Gettysburg address, Harvey Hall, I Have a Dream, Lesley Bonds, Marcus Duarte Smith, Odella Johnson, People’s Missionary Baptist Church of Bakersfield, Rev. Dr. Vincent Karl Jones, Vince Fong