Tuesday, October 23 , 2018, 12:07 pm | Fair 67º

 
 
 
 

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a Taste for Change

For Santa Barbara's interfaith community, a solemn celebration means more this year on the eve of the Obama inauguration.

Throngs of Santa Barbarans joined Monday's State Street march commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Throngs of Santa Barbarans joined Monday’s State Street march commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. (Charles Croninger photo)

Santa Barbara’s interfaith community marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday by looking back at the life of the slain civil rights leader and ahead to incoming President Barack Obama.

“It was to keep the message of Martin Luther King alive. All across the country in big towns and small towns were gatherings like this,” said the Rev. Mark Asman, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church and a member of the Interfaith Initiative of Santa Barbara County.

“Especially given that the fact that the first African-American is going to be inaugurated tomorrow, there’s a particular poignancy and power to the remembrance of Martin Luther King,” he said.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, was first observed in 1986. It marks the birth date of King, who was assassinated in 1968 at age 39.

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The 2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration was as much about looking forward as it was honoring the past. (Charles Croninger photo)
The multicultural, multifaith day began with a rally, rounding up the local community with singing, dancing and a Chumash blessing. A march to the Granada Theatre from De la Guerra Plaza followed, after which participants were invited to listen to speeches and essays from the younger members of the community. The event’s keynote speaker was Khalil Shaheed, jazz musician and youth educator.

The evening event was a more subdued and serious affair at Trinity Church, where the pews were filled with people looking ahead to Tuesday’s historical inauguration of the country’s first black president. “HOPE: A Time of Prayer, Good Wishes, Song & Dance” was an idea that started in the mind of local resident Harriett Burke to celebrate and pray for the incoming administration.

“Everybody said, ‘Whoa, good idea,’” Burke said.

It snowballed into a program meant to offer a variety of thanks, expressions of hope, prayers, poetry and music from different cultures: Chumash Elder Roberta Cordero blessed the space while poets Perie Longo and Sojourner Kincaid Rolle offered their reflections on the Obama era.

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Gospel singer Michelle Lawyer poured out her heart during Monday’s service at Trinity Episcopal Church. (Sonia Fernandez / Noozhawk)
Music from the Jewish tradition, performed by Alison Zuber of the Community Shul of Montecito and Santa Barbara and Isla Vista Minion; American gospel sung by Michelle Lawyer; and music from the African continent by Malian musician Ali Baba were only some of the offerings. Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, recalled the days when he was Peter Nava, an attempt by his parents and teachers to protect him from immigrant backlash. Galal el Kholi, a board member of the Islamic Center of Southern California, offered a prayer for the nation’s 44th president.

“We ask that you guide this man’s mind and body that he may walk straight in a crooked world,” he said.

Those who want to watch Obama’s inauguration in the company of a couple thousand of their friends may do so without traveling to frigid Washington. The Arlington Theatre, 1317 State St., will open its doors at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday for free broadcast coverage of the inauguration. The formal inauguration ceremony begins in Washington at 8:30 a.m. Pacific time.

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By the time it was finished, Trinity Church's candlelight vigil had brought light to the soaring stone sanctuary.
By the time it was finished, Trinity Church’s candlelight vigil had brought light to the soaring stone sanctuary. (Sonia Fernandez / Noozhawk photo)

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