‘Stories of courage’ highlight MLK tribute

Robin Pollard, back left, leads kids through some yoga poses at the MLK Day of Action at the Si, Se Puede! Learning Center. Pollard volunteered with the First 5 San Benito booth at the event.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Villa Luna Apartment common area was full of music, praise and words of courage.
The Community Media Access Partnership and Si, Se Puede! Learning Center sponsored the day of action Jan. 16 that included a morning of video workshops for students at the center and an event for the community in the afternoon. The event was paid for in part from a grant from the Cesar Chavez Foundation.
“We are really excited to have everyone here,” said Spencer Wilkinson, the CMAP media education manager.
During the event, Wilkinson and his crew invited guests to share their “Stories of Courage,” which will be edited together into a video that will be available on the CMAP website.
Mino Valdez served as master of ceremonies, introducing speakers and entertainers. Rev. Ardyss Golden was one of the first speakers to share a story of courage. She talked about meeting a young woman who was 15, with a baby and trying to finish high school. She said the girl was courageous enough to finish high school while raising her baby, and she finished school with good grades. The girl got a good job, married her boyfriend and now has two more children.
“The day she graduated, I was so proud of her,” Golden said. “She didn’t take the easy way out.”
She said stories of courage can make people see they don’t have to be Superman.
“Be kind. Be good. And always expect the very best,” she said.
In between speakers, entertainers took the stage, including two rock bands made up of local middle school students. The first, RISK BAND, included a singer, bass player, guitar player, drummer and a keyboardist. The second band, Out of Nowhere, had a drummer, lead singer, guitar and bass players. Both bands played rock covers ranging from Led Zepplin to Nirvana to Nickleback.
“Again, the reason we came together is to support our youth,” Valdez said. “With the talent they have, it has adults behind it to support it. It propels our next generation to speak their minds.”
County Supervisor Anthony Botelho talked about how Martin Luther King Jr. emphasized service.
“He paid the ultimate price for it,” Botelho said, adding that it takes courage to provide service. “There are many ways we can do that. You can volunteer to help older folks. Others volunteer with youth. They give time to the benefit of the community.”
To emphasize the work that King did, a group of students from the Youth Alliance Collaborative After School Academy (CASA) de Milagros & Power School
program at R.O. Hardin read aloud spoken-word poetry about him. The students took turns reading aloud lines about the things King believed in and his legacy.
“I’m going to repeat some of the things the children read,” said Margie Barrios, a county supervisor, when she took the stage. “Martin Luther King to me is moral strength and perseverance. Even though he has been physically gone since 1968, he continues to carry his message of hope for all.”
Barrios said that racism has declined since King’s famous speech in 1963, “but we haven’t reached the Promised Land.” She also talked about her own mother, Luisa Sanchez, who died a few weeks ago, who gave courage to her children.
“She taught us we had to work hard,” Barrios said. “She valued and believed in the importance of education.”
While Barrios’ mother had only a fourth-grade education, she encouraged her children to get educated. But Barrios said the most memorable thing she learned from her mother was a simple phrase and she shared it in Spanish before repeating the English translation.
“Don’t fight, my children,” she said. “Remember that you are brothers and sisters.”
As the speakers talked and the bands played, guests visited some of the resource and activity booths that were set up around the outdoor playground area. First 5 of San Benito offered yoga for kids and allowed them to decorate a crown. Community Solutions, the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office and the Community Food Bank offered information to residents. At a nearby table, kids took turns riding a bicycle that powered a spin art wheel. Food was available, catered by Eric Swann.
Another booth offered children a chance to create a panel for what will become a traveling mural. At the center of the mural will be a black-and-white painting of Martin Luther King, Jr., pointing out at viewers. The piece was painted by Gabriel Gonzalez, a former San Benito High School student who now lives in Watsonville. The students decorated cloth panels with handprints. The mural will be put up at the Learning Center, Gavilan College and the Blak Sage Gallery.
“It will be a ‘Tree of Courage,'” said Laura Foote, a volunteer. “Every day we overcome shortcomings. It becomes our struggle.”

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