Local News

Monday, Jan 21 2013 04:58 PM

Hundreds gather for Bakersfield's MLK celebration

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    UCSD student Marissa Krolnik volunteered to serve at the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast Monday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    From left, Alana Alahakam, Imani Gillen and Amari Gillen are three of the volunteers who helped with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Bakersfield Monday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Soloist Cathy Porchia sings to an appreciative group gathered at the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast Monday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    People attending the Annual Matin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast stand and applaud soloist Cathy Porchia.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Rising Star Baptist Church Minister Sharon Edwards was the guest speaker at the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast Monday morning. She spoke on the topic of being a virtuous woman to 320 people attending the annual breakfast.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The Rev. Wesley Crawford Sr. briefly speaks at the Annual Community Breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. about the great women behind every great man. About 320 people attended the breakfast.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Prior to the start of the 29th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade, Pastor George Lartique of the New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Paso Robles spoke to the crowd who had assembled at the Liberty Bell.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Marchers head south on "Q" Street towards the Mount Zion Church on California Avenue during the 29th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade where they would finish with a church service.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Six-year-old Na-Quelia Cooper was one of the younger marchers in the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Marchers walk south down Q Street in the 29th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade en-route to the Mount Zion Church at California Avenue and P Street for a birthday celebration and church service in honor of Rev. King. The participants started at the Liberty Bell in front of the courthouse were they lit candles, said a prayer, and then started the march.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

For hundreds in Bakersfield, Monday began with prayer, music and coming together as a community regardless of individual race or faith.

Wesley Crawford Sr. said that's the proper way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Crawford helped organize the Annual MLK Breakfast, which was to be followed by a parade Monday evening ending at Mount Zion Church on California Avenue.

Crawford said the civil rights leader's legacy is greater than any individual person because those who joined his cause were so diverse.

"All races, creeds and religious backgrounds were part of that struggle," Crawford said.

Much diversity was on display at the breakfast at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center on Owens Street, where those in attendance included Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green, Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson, Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, Roy Ashburn and community activist Marvin Dean.

A large group of teens was also on hand, some of whom woke up early and helped clean vacant lots and paint over graffiti. Others escorted people to their tables at the community center and helped prepare for the event.

Alana Alahakam, 16, said she thinks of MLK Day as a day of improvement, a day for people from all parts of the community to come together and have a good time.

Alahakam said she's sometimes asked what her ethnic background is. That question bothers her, she said, because a person's background should have no bearing on how someone views them.

"It really doesn't matter," she said.

Imani Gillen, 16, and her 14-year-old sister, Amari, both helped out at the center Monday morning. Imani said she's hopeful race relations will continue to improve over the years.

Amari said she woke up excited about Monday and the MLK-related events.

"Really and truly I believe today is about Martin Luther King and how he spoke his mind and changed the world," she said.

Marissa Krolnik, 19, has been helping at the annual breakfast for the past six years. She drove from San Diego to take part in Monday's event. She said it's amazing what people are capable of doing after bonding at these types of events.

"It's a great time to get together and see what's going on in the community," Krolnik said.

Loretta Chappel, who sang following breakfast, may have said it best when talking about how it doesn't matter where everyone in attendance Monday comes from; all that matters is that the crowd was brought together through God.

"If you come from the White House, the black house, the poorhouse, the outhouse, the crackhouse, it don't matter," she said.

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