Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream speech
Doris Bond, board member and volunteer at Redding’s Martin Luther King Center, recalls the moment she first encountered discrimination. At 9 years old, her grandmother took her to visit New York City, Washington D.C. and Memphis, Tenn. While on a bus to Memphis, Bond and her grandmother were sitting behind the bus driver when a black woman came onto the bus. Seeing plenty of available seats next to her, Bond couldn’t understand why the woman was walking toward the back of the bus. Bond invited the woman to sit down next to her. “My grandmother just about had a stroke. She said ‘you can’t do that!,’” Bond recalls.
Although that moment is permanently embedded in her mind, Bond says, “What galvanized my feeling that America needed a change was what happened on the Selma Bridge. The state troopers, the dogs and the horses that wouldn’t let the black people cross the bridge… I remember the violence. Officers were clubbing people. It was horrible.”
As a young adult from a Quaker background who had grown up in an area where only two black students went to high school with her, Bond says, “I had no direct knowledge of what was going on.” Today, Bond clearly recognizes the importance of embracing diversity: “I think we should celebrate our differences, but we shouldn’t let them divide us. Diversity makes a community stronger. Dr. King has made a difference in our country – he has made it a better place.”
Eddie McAllister, community organizer and a leader in cultural diversification in the North State, remembers hearing discussions about the March on Washington and King’s speech.
“I was young and dumb then. But knowing what Dr. King went through in trying to get the basic rights for people of color, and knowing that he died fighting for something better for all people, I look at it completely differently now. Here we are, a small community of 180,000 people in Shasta County, and our community is recognizing this moment in this way. It makes me proud,” says McAllister.
“When Dr. King said, ‘I’ve been to the mountain top,’ he was not talking about camping with his family. His words were very spiritual in nature. He struggled for a brighter future for all of us,” McAllister says.
It was Bond who first thought of the idea of celebrating the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech. Since 2011, she, McAllister and others have hosted a commemoration of the speech. The 50th anniversary is slated to be a grander celebration of the momentous occasion.
On Saturday, August 24, at First United Methodist Church at 1825 East St. in Redding, a community celebration is planned from 3 to 5 pm with a dinner from 5 to 7 pm. The goal of the program, themed “See the vision, live the dream,” is to bring a greater understanding of and connection to the “I have a dream” speech to all who attend.
Marty Murdock, former pastor of First United Methodist Church and one of several diverse speakers slated to speak at the celebration, will share his experience of having heard the speech from the very mouth of King. Musical selections performed by a community choir and accompanied and directed by Cleveland Bonéy, local musician and minister of music, and assisted by Pastor Bonnie Daniels of Second Baptist Church in Redding, will add to the festive nature of the occasion. For themulticultural dinner, the county’s diverse cultural communities will be able to contribute something in an effort to show brotherhood and sisterhood.
Commemorative T-shirts will be funded by Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Proceeds from shirt sales will help pay for the program and dinner. Shirts are $15 for adults and $10 for kids. To purchase a T-shirt or to become involved with the celebration, contact McAllister at (530) 524-7504 or Mackay at (510) 689-8689.
Also, on Wednesday, August 28 at the Shasta College quad from 10 am to 1 pm, the traditional Student Welcome Day will take on the spirit of King’s message. Although there will still be vendors and community resources in attendance that day, students, faculty and community members will also have the opportunity to celebrate diversity together on the anniversary of a pivotal moment in American history. •
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorative t-shirts will be available at Enjoy the Store, Redding. T-shirts are: $15 each for adults (Small - 3XL) and $10 each for children (Medium & Large). Cash or check payments only, please. Quantities are limited.