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Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Committee continues King Commemoration program despite lack of City Hall's support
FRESNO, CA — Every year the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Committee (MLK Unity Committee) puts on a birthday weekend celebration for the county of Fresno, usually supported and funded by Fresno's Human Relations Commission—recently disbanded by City Hall officials.
Since the tradition has been continuous for over 20 years, the MLK Committee had to find a way to drum up finances before the Jan. 12th—Jan. 15th events, to keep the historical commemoration going without help from the City of Fresno. Parks & Recreation, headed by Randy Cooper, gave a bulk of financial support for the Committee along with Councilperson Cynthia Sterling from District Three who stepped in to fund Friday night's (Jan. 12th) awards reception which honors outstanding members of the community. Then other community members began to lend support such as Fresno City College's Theater Department under Dean . Jothany Blackwood who is not only a guest speaker at Monday's Commemoration Program(Jan. 15th,) but a sponsor with Sterling for the awards reception. The City of Clovis was obliged to sponsor Saturday's Unity Breakfast (Jan. 13th) for the second year to lend support to the Committee.
The MLK Unity Committee also received in the past support from the business sector: Enterprise Rental Car Company represented by Jackie Kennedy-Harris gave a donation for last year's Awards Reception, and this year, Blackxchange.net, founded by Dwayne Ferguson, confirmed that they would hand out free t-shirts for each day of the celebration.
Although the MLK Unity Committee is most known for its annual celebration, oftentimes people are unaware of the partnership's they have to help their fellow citizens; this year they are partners with the New Generation Holiness Church who feed and clothe 5,000 homeless people each month in Fresno. At each day of the celebration people and businesses are asked to bring canned goods for the "Mountain of Food"? drive which will be donated this year, to the Fresno Community Church of God, Homeless Outreach ministry where Rev. S. Small's congregation and their youth group feed homeless people each month.
As positive change has been the upheaval of the MLK Unity Committee, they have made grand efforts to let the public know about these monumental transformations.
One major adjustment from the previous year celebrations include the route of the Monday March, which used to begin behind Fresno's City Hall and end at the Veteran's Memorial Auditorium. It will now begin at New Generation Holiness Church on 552 Tuolumne & A streets at 9:30 AM, ending at the Warnor Theatre on 1400 Fulton St. where the Commemoration Program of guest speakers and community entertainers will take place—this was where the March initially began over 20 years ago.
Usually the Committee convenes three to four months prior to the weekend event; the Fresno Chapter of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) lead by Rev. Leonard Adams has agreed to play a major role in leading the Committee next year, in which the MLK Unity Committee will be an ongoing group that will plan something for every month instead of just for a weekend—all members of the community are welcome to join the Committee.
Some people may not be aware that the initial SCLC has a history that started with a legacy under the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. Today SCLC chapters throughout the United States and in other countries take action, tackling the many social issues within the African-American community. This will be the Fresno Chapter's SCLC official kick-off celebration and membership drive during the weekend activities—all people are welcome to become members of the organization.
Finally the most distinct change will be during Friday's Reception & Awards Presentation at Fresno City College; members of the defunct City of Fresno Human Relations Commission will be honored and recognized for their hard work and dedication to serving the Fresno community, along with other outstanding individuals of the community who will also be recognized. The awards ceremony represents Fresno citizens who have been nominated for excellence in education, health, law, community service, community activism, and youth leadership.
For more information about all the weekend activities, please call MLK Unity Committee Chair James Lett III at 559-284-6420.