Various Martin Luther King Day celebrations were held Monday Jan. 15, 2018 throughout Humboldt County with events in Arcata, Eureka and even Crescent City.
At Noon last Monday, the NAACP held their annual MLK day celebration at the Adorni Center in Eureka.
There were musical performances of the Black National Anthem and a poetry and interpretive dance performance by two Humboldt State University students. The Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir also delivered beautiful song performances.
Two students who attend middle school and high school in Arcata, were given $100 cash prizes from the NAACP for a MLK essay contest.
Eureka Seventh-Day Adventist Church Pastor Roger Williams, shared a sermon of wisdom before asking for a moment of silence for HSU student David Josiah Lawson (who was stabbed to death at an off-campus party in Arcata April 2017) and retired HSU Professor Nathan Smith, who passed away recently.
Lawson’s mother Charmaine Lawson, was keynote speaker of the event.
Congressman Jared Huffman was also present and shared a few words. Although he would not be able to stick around to hear her speak, Huffman commended Ms. Lawson for her courage.
“It takes a lot of courage for a mom who lost her child, to get in front of a room to talk about anything, much less the issues of racial tension,” Huffman said outside as he was leaving.
During her speech, Lawson’s mother described the honors and awards Lawson received for his academic excellence while playing sports.
“He was invited to the early academic program at UC Riverside, The National High School Scholars, African-American achievements for academic excellence while playing sports–and sometimes that is not easy–most improved in AP class, Chief Bernard Park’s 8th District Scholarship recipient, Delta Sigma Kappa Alpha [scholarship award] and so many more,” Ms. Lawson detailed. “He was an amazing son, an awesome son.”
Ms. Lawson’s tone turned to disappointment as she described the lack of answers she has received in the nine months since her son’s murder. She called for Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer to replace the Arcata Chief of Police, as well as stating that she holds city and HSU officials responsible for the lack of justice that her son and other people receive throughout Humboldt County.
“People are disappearing in Humboldt County, murdered, attacked, in your town and no one is being held accountable, well APD, city council members, District Attorney Maggie Fleming, HSU president Lisa Rossbacher, I’m holding you responsible. How can we rise up together if we don’t feel supported, if we don’t feel safe? I am not just talking about people of color, I am talking about everyone.”
A scholarship fund in Lawson’s name was announced at the event and the NAACP presented the news to Ms. Lawson that over $2,000 had already been raised for the fund.
True North Organizing Network also held a MLK day celebration at the Crescent City Methodist Church. The True North Organizing Network is a “community lead, grassroots organizing effort supported by a team of Community Organizers” (TNON Website). Their leaders ‘courageously challenge social, economic, and environmental injustice’ in the region.
Yesterday True North launched their Rapid Response Network, to help those threatened by recent ICE activity in the area.
“True North, in partnership with ACLU of Northern California, launched a Rapid Response Hotline this weekend to respond to threatened ICE activity in the region. Humboldt County residents who notice ICE operations are encouraged to call (707) 282-5226 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The call will activate community volunteers who have been trained to observe and witness ICE raids, wherever they may take place” (TNON Facebook).
Arcata was not too far behind in the MLK day celebrations. Their Bowl of Beans event was attended by hundreds of community members. Sponsored by Arcata Parks & Recreation, Arcata Elementary and Channel 3 News, the event also included musical performances from students and African-American musicians and artist.
There was a $6 cover charge which guaranteed you food and musical performances. In addition, there was a table where silent auctions were being held for various items and gifts and another table where MLK t-shirts were being sold. The proceeds would go towards low- income art programs for Arcata Park’s and Recreation and Arcata Elementary School as well as covering costs of the event.
“We have low-income scholarships for people who apply for programs we offer, so we make sure we include people even if they can’t afford it on their own,” said Julie Neander.
Neander is the Deputy Director of Community Services for the City of Arcata Parks and Recreation Department.
“Martin Luther King stood for a lot of things and before he was murdered, he was doing a lot to look at economic equity for all people and was getting ready to do a really big campaign.”
Some people may ask, if money raised on MLK day by the city of Arcata is going towards low-income art programs, should some of the proceeds also go towards the justice efforts of African-American’s in the local community? As much as Martin Luther King J.R. fought for income inequality, he also fought for the justice, rights and access of African-American’s in this country.
Arcata Elementary School Principal did not respond to questions sent via email (per her request) which inquired if the school would consider donating some of the proceeds to the reward or scholarship fund for Lawson.
Dr. King once said that, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’
The lack of justice that Lawson and his family have received the last nine months has plagued the town of Arcata. Yet, his story only echoes the lack of justice that many have received and continue to receive by the justice system of Humboldt and the surrounding counties.
There is a $55,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Lawson’s death. Anyone with information should call the Arcata Police Department at (707) 822-2428 or Lawson family Attorney Shelley Mack at (707) 268-0445.
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” – Martin Luther King J.R.
Note: ***Crescent City is in Del Norte County***