I was very surprised, and I'll add upset, that I saw not even a mention in the Times following the traditional Martin Luther King Day event on Monday, Jan. 15, the Walnut Creek event held in the honor of Dr. King.
The program was amazingly relevant for the culture of the American climate today -- a culture of violence. Our theme for this day was "Sowing the Seeds of Peace." This celebration has been an annual program in Walnut Creek for the past 21-23 years.
A little history: Some 20-plus years ago, the Rev. David Sammons (at that time of Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church) and the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center joined with the local Social Justice Network to celebrate the day we honor Dr. King. We started in the gazebo in Civic Park downtown. Sammons held the microphone, spoke for a few minutes and then passed it to the 10-12 others who wanted to share. They were the "speakers," with the Rev. Greg Ledbetter highlighting the event with songs. We ended the events with hot apple cider for our "crockpots."
As we grew, we selected two or three to be speakers and Ledbetter brought musicians, now called the Shell Ridge Ramblers, and we moved indoors. The passionate audience grew through the years and so did we. The "Network" became the Social Justice Alliance ,and connected with the newly forming Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, formerly the Council of Churches.
The MLK event continued to grow, from 70 to 120 to 200 and last year 300 attendees. In about 2007, the alliance partnered with the peace and justice center. It has been a good partnership, people with like-minded values reaching for the best in our production for the people of Walnut Creek and now, way beyond.
This year our theme was "Sowing the Seeds of Peace." We were honored by political representation for the City of Walnut Creek -- Mayor Cindy Silva in person. state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and Congressman George Miller sent their comments through representatives, since they were personally attending presidential inauguration functions.
Our keynote speaker, the Rev. Donna E. Allen, is pastor of New Revelation Community Church in Oakland. She delivered a powerful highlight to our theme by sharing personal experience. She emphasized that everyone can sow "seeds of peace" everyday and become seeds of peace in bringing about a culture of peace.
The lively familiar music was furnished by Daniel Zwickel, popular troubadour in our area. Dwight Stone, an accomplished and honored musician, contributed highlights through the entire program including a rousing "Lift Every Voice and Sing," while everyone sang along enthusiastically.
The program concluded with the traditional "We Shall Overcome," with verses about "sowing seeds of peace" followed by resounding cheers. Refreshments were plentiful with thanks to Peets Coffee and Tea on Ygnacio Valley Road, Sprouts on Geary Road and Costco on Monument Boulevard.
All this, and no coverage of the event at all.
Natalie Russell is a longtime Pleasant Hill resident and has helped organize Walnut Creek's Martin Luther King Jr. observance since its inception.