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Jan. 16—Kern County joins the nation in recognizing and celebrating on Monday the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader whose name appears on local buildings and a park — tributes meant to reflect the positive impact he had on the nation, as well as his message of hope for a better future.
Different parts of the county might have different ways of honoring King's legacy — the pursuit of equality for a nation perhaps best embodied in his famous "I have a dream" speech — but the events on this day echo similar sentiments meant to reflect King's message.
The day also has become a way to honor community leaders who have sought to follow in King's footsteps by bringing positive change, as well as a way for community members to take the opportunity to make that kind of impact themselves.
Monday's tributes start at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, which is hosting a unity breakfast at 8:30 a.m. At the event, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee is set to present Arleana Waller with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Waller is credited with starting the ShePOWER Leadership Academy, a nonprofit leadership and mentoring organization for young girls, founding the MLKcommUNITY Initiative and, more recently, working with the Circle of Life Development Foundation to conduct a Black Emerging Millennial Leadership Initiative "to develop the next generation of leaders," according to a previous article in The Californian.
Shortly after the breakfast gets underway, the Greater Lamont Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with AmeriCorp, is hosting another tribute, the annual MLK Day of Service. The chamber is looking to demonstrate community pride with a street and graffiti cleanup effort, starting with a meetup at Lamont Hispanic Adventist Church and ending with a lunch for volunteers there.
The Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP is hosting an MLK Jr. celebration and march beginning at St. Peter Restoration Community Christian Ministries at 2 p.m. The gathering will start as a way to support Black-owned businesses, with vendors available until 5:30 p.m. At that time, there will be a program to celebrate the life and legacy of King, and then a walk that will start at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The event is free and open to the public.
"For many of our local families, MLK Day is a day of service, an opportunity to serve and contribute to a shared 'dream' of a better society for all," said Jose Gonzalez, vice president of the Lamont chamber. "For me, it is an opportunity to help keep this dream alive and moving forward in our Lamont Weedpatch community for generations to come. It's exciting and heartwarming to see everyone come together."
Lamont Hispanic Adventist Church is located at 10420 Myrtle Ave. in Lamont. The MLK Community Center is located at 1000 South Buck Owens St. in Bakersfield, which is also the address for Martin Luther King Jr. Park. St. Peter Restoration Community Christian Ministries is located at 510 East Brundage Lane in Bakersfield.