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Coachella Valley residents gathered Monday at the First Community Baptist Church in Desert Hot Springs to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
MLK Day is held on the third Monday of January to honor King’s birthday — though his actual birthday was on Jan. 15, 1929. The Baptist minister and leader in the American civil rights movement known for his nonviolent activism was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
The First Community Baptist Church celebrated King with an event that featured speakers, performances and an essay contest at Desert Springs Middle School. The essay prompt was "the dream is still a battle and a struggle," according to Crystal Baylark, an elder at the church.
Baylark, who is married to First Community Baptist Church pastor James Baylark, said King’s birthday is very significant in the lives of people of color and the whole world.
“Because it's all about civil rights. It's all about human rights,” Baylark said. “It's all about everyone being treated the same — everyone being equal under God’s eyes.”
The event’s main guest speaker was the pastor of Quinn African Methodist Episcopal Church in Moreno Valley, Mercedes Tudy-Hamilton. Hamilton said when people see injustice happen, they can’t sit quietly.
“Sometimes we do get discouraged. Sometimes we feel like giving up, but we’ve got to remember what Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King says,” Tudy-Hamilton said. “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but we must take it because his conscience tells us that it's right."
About 60 people attended the event, including Mayor Pro Tem Gary Gardner and Councilmember Jan Pye.
Minister Tommy Enge said he admired how everybody benefited from King's activism, not just Black people.
"It wasn't a Black thing, it was an American thing because all Americans benefit from what he done," Enge said.
Selwyn Terry, who attends Quinn A.M.E. Church, said members of his congregation came with Tudy-Hamilton to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"Best of all, I'd say (King) brought unity. Where everyone didn't have it back in the day, but now we can see it," Terry said. "We can see what it looks like. It made my day to just come and spend time (here)."
Ani Gasparyan covers the western Coachella Valley cities of Desert Hot Springs and Cathedral City. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: First Community Baptist Church celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day