FAIRFIELD — The life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. were celebrated Monday at the ninth annual commemorative breakfast hosted by the Fairfield-Suisun City-Vacaville section of the National Council of Negro Women Inc.
About 200 people packed into the banquet room at the Hilton Garden Inn to hear guests and keynote speaker Karen McCord, Solano Community College professor, talk about the progress made by blacks in the past 50 years. They were also reminded there are still battles to be fought.
Battles for the likes of young Fred Ferguson, a third-grader at Tolenas Elementary School, who gave the invocation. Brief, and from the heart, the youngster’s prayer mentioned that he hoped city officials would make good choices for his people. He also extended a welcome the first-timers, “who aren’t used this kind of stuff.”
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, spoke about his memories of the civil rights movement. “It was a struggle that resonated around the world,” he said. He and his wife were Peace Corps volunteers in a remote Ethiopian village between 1964-68.
Locals could catch the news on a radio at a tea shop, he said.
“They knew the struggles in America,” Garamendi said. “It was their struggle also.”
King’s message must continue to resonate today.
“The struggle will never be over,” he said.
Fred delighted the audience throughout the event. During drawings for raffle prizes, he noted one table seemed to hold too many of the winning tickets. “Come on, give the other people a chance to win,” he said.
The next prize went to the same table. “I quit,” Fred said in jest.
McCord told the youngster made her job more difficult, but just as important.
“It’s for you, the children, our leaders of tomorrow that we are here,” she told the crowd.
She spoke of the 1950s and 1960s. In that first decade, King was a pastor, a man who answered the call to fight for equality. In the second decade, he became the face of the civil rights movement.
King, while a great man, is dead, McCord said. “The action today depends on you,” she said.
“We need to have a Martin Luther King Jr. way of life. We need to do what is necessary to achieve success,” she said.
The educator focused on keeping children and teens in school. In junior high school, she was held back a year because she had been suspended for fighting more than five times in one year.
She dropped out of school in ninth grade. One year later, she was in college courses.
“We have to find ways to address behavior without impacting education,” McCord said. “I’m a product of a second-chance program.”
Donna Murdock of Fairfield attended the annual event for the first time. A friend invited her.
“We have to recognize Dr. King and the work he did while he was alive and the legacy of his life,” she said. “We’ve got to join everyone to celebrate. We’ve got to do it together.”
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.