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Santa Barbarans Choose to ‘Stick with Love’ on Martin Luther King Day

Celebrations in honor of slain civil-rights leader included speeches, poetry, dancing, singing and a march from De La Guerra Plaza to The Arlington Theatre

Marchers who gathered Monday to honor the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King head up State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Marchers who gathered Monday to honor the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King head up State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

With the people’s faith in public institutions hitting close to rock bottom, politics as polarizing as ever, and violent attacks rocking communities across the globe, pessimism and tensions seem to be at an all-time high.

However, Santa Barbarans celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday had a starkly different message for their community: Stick with love.

The theme of this year’s celebrations, “I have decided to stick with love,” comes from the civil rights icon’s “Where Do We Go From Here?” speech, delivered 50 years ago at the 11th Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta.

“Let me tell you, brothers and sisters, that violence has not solved the world’s problems,” said the Rev. Danielle Garcia of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara at Monday’s event. “Anger has not solved the world’s problems. Hatred has not solved the world’s problems.”

The activities, put on by The Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara, kicked off Friday with the MLK Jr. Eternal Flame ceremony at UC Santa Barbara, and were followed the next day by Santa Barbara Ring Shout — Christian worship dance practiced by American slaves — and a Buddhist community event discussing issues surrounding nonviolence.

Various places of faith honored King and his legacy on Sunday.

Locals gathered Monday morning at De La Guerra Plaza in downtown Santa Barbara for Chumash songs, dances by World Dance for Humanity, a group rendition of “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and speeches by city, county, state and congressional representatives.

Drawing on King’s words and writings, Garcia defined love as requiring “us to withstand and confront injustice.

Assemblywoman Monique Limón told the crowd gathered in De  la Guerra Plaza in downtown Santa Barbara that “Dr. King taught us that leadership and passion can unite millions, and today, more than ever, we must join forces and work together towards Dr. King’s mission.” Click to view larger
Assemblywoman Monique Limón told the crowd gathered in De la Guerra Plaza in downtown Santa Barbara that “Dr. King taught us that leadership and passion can unite millions, and today, more than ever, we must join forces and work together towards Dr. King’s mission.” (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

“Real love means forgiving, even the worst sins, and demanding that those we love be better,” she said. “Love is listening, even when we completely disagree with the person standing before us, and showing them a different way forward.”

After a tumultuous 2016 and the election of Donald Trump, which left many progressives, women and minorities worried about the country’s future, speakers reflected on King’s approach to combating injustice with love, which they argued is especially important in 2017.

“Dr. King taught us that leadership and passion can unite millions, and today, more than ever, we must join forces and work together towards Dr. King’s mission,” said state Assemblywoman Monique Limón (D–Santa Barbara). “We must ensure that the progress we have made continues, and move forward, and not backwards.”

“I don’t remember any speeches by Dr. King that said, ‘Hey, if I don’t get all the planks in the Civil Rights Act that I want, then I’m going to move to Canada’,” First District County Supervisor Das Williams said. “Love requires commitment, and it requires us to remain strong when we feel weak.”

The civil rights struggle led by King has not ended, Congressman Salud Carbajal (D–Santa Barbara) told attendees alongside his predecessor, Lois Capps.

“While we’ve come a long way, we still have a long way to go,” he said.

Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo proposed that rather than dread Friday’s presidential inauguration, people should get involved with community efforts like forming tenants’ unions and establishing ethnic studies curriculum in schools.

From De La Guerra Plaza, the attendees took to State Street for a “unity march” up to The Arlington Theatre, where songs, music, dance performances, poetry and essay reading and clips from the film “Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot” were held.

On Feb. 20, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee will be hosting a fundraising event at the Granada Theatre, showing 42, the biographical sports film about Jackie Robinson and racial integration in baseball. 

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Martin Luther King Jr.‘s words are especially important in today’s polarizing times, said one rally participant, who identified himself as Pepper. Click to view larger
Martin Luther King Jr.‘s words are especially important in today’s polarizing times, said one rally participant, who identified himself as Pepper. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

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