The Martin Luther King Community Coalition (MLK Coalition) in collaboration with the Pasadena Uniﬁed School District (PUSD) and the City of Pasadena presented its annual Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration on Monday, January 21, 2019. The theme for the event was “A Beloved Community.” Student winners from the essay and art contest read their essays and presented their winning artwork to an audience of hundreds of guests.
City council ofﬁcials, PUSD representatives, Pasadena Tournament of Roses presidents, and community leaders were in attendance to congratulate the students and present them with certiﬁcates, trophies, and a cash prize sponsored by the Tournament of Roses. Guests included Dr. Brian McDonald, Superintendent of Pasadena Uniﬁ ed School District; U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu; Senator Anthony Portantino; Mayor Terry Tornek; Assemblyman Chris Holden; Tyrone Hampton, City Councilman of District 1; John Kennedy, Vice Mayor and Councilman of District 3; Supervisor Kathryn Barger of the 5th District of Los Angeles County; Justin Jones from the City of Pasadena’s Human Relations Commission; Rev. Dr. James E. Stevenson, Pastor of Scott United Methodist Church; and Nat Nehdar, the author of City Hall’s annual “Rekindling the Light of Peace” event, the precursor to the King festivities. Pasadena native, Roland Wiley of Wiley Vox Productions, was the Master of Ceremonies, and Nicole Duquette, principal of McKinley School of the Arts, the hosting campus, welcomed guests. Julie Reynoso, assistant superintendent, led the documentary video dialogue and teach-in of “Legacy of a Dream.”
The Pasadena Tournament of Roses, a major sponsor of the event, were represented by the incoming 2019 president, Laura Farber, Esq. and 2020 president, Dr. Robert “Bob” Miller.
Farber thanked the Coalition for the work it does in the community and said that the Tournament of Roses is proud to be a collaborative sponsor of the event and of the scholarship prize money that the student winners are awarded each year. The Tournament of Roses gives over one million dollars a year to organizations, including schools in the Pasadena Uniﬁ ed School District. She also, talked about the positive changes that are occurring in the Tournament’s membership diversity, with the former president being the ﬁrst African American, and she being the third woman, and ﬁrst Latina.
Farber went on to share with the Martin Luther King Day Celebration audience, one of her ﬁrst public events of her tenure, her theme, as the president of the Tournament of Roses, “The Power of Hope.” She gave an impassioned speech to the attendees about being steadfast and focused. She talked about how her childhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina and mother’s grit and determination helped to inspire her theme. Jessica Valentine, a 92-year old retired teacher and 20-year member of the coalition, was moved by Farber’s earnest encouragement, and reiterated the importance of students being reminded to dream for and to expect the best. Farber was accompanied by her husband, Dominican Republic native, Tomás López.
The keynote address was presented by K-Rahn Vallatine, author of Live Above the Hype Hip Hop Life Skills Curriculum and the Urban Youth Culture Competency and Engagement training system.
Vallatine shared the importance of compassion and empathy to creating a beloved community. With some personal anecdotes and a relatable disposition, many people, including the K-12 students and young adults, were inspired by his address. Vallatine has worked with incarcerated youth in juvenile halls and detention camps of Los Angeles. He has been a presenter and keynote speaker for conferences and is a native of Pasadena.
Throughout the years, he has served in education as a teacher, as well as a Board member for a San Gabriel Valley charter school and was on the steering committee for the Trauma Informed Taskforce of Greater Los Angeles.
Submissions for this year’s essay and visual and performing arts contests were judged in the categories of theme development, organization, and creativity. All of the student winners in the essay were outstanding. One particular standout was Edwin Abiedu, a 6th grader from Marshall Middle School. He recited his entire essay from memory, and was received with a rousing applause and standing ovation from the audience.
This year’s entertainment was performed by talented student winners from the performance arts category and from PUSD bands. Melinda Aguilar, Doug George, Davian Willis, and Savannah Cropper of Focus Point Academy gave a special music presentation. Maya De Cunto from Marshall Middle School recited a poem. Music was provided before the event by Marshall Fundamental Jazz Band directed by Anthony Carafone and during lunch by the Wilson Middle School Band directed by Marvin Hachett.
All of the winning essays and art will be on the MLK Community Coalition’s website. Also, the original pieces of student art work will be on display at the Pasadena Central Library, located at 285 East Walnut Street Pasadena, CA 91101, for the month of February.
The annual MLK Celebration is presented in association with the Pasadena Uniﬁ ed School District, City of Pasadena, Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Aspires West Pasadena, Scott United Methodist Church, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority-Pasadena Chapter. Robin Salazar of Robins Wood Fire Barbeque is also a sponsor, providing lunch for the celebration.
Events leading up to the culminating celebration were the A Day On—Not Off, held at McKinley School of the Arts. Members of the Tournament of Roses executive committee and Rose Court also attended the annual campus beautiﬁcation day, A Day On—Not Day Off held on Saturday, January 19, 2019, alongside volunteers, parents, and from Kaiser Permanente, Caltech, Alpha Phi Alpha, Rosebud Academy, parents, students, and other community members. They got their hands dirty as they derooted, planted, cleaned, mulched, and relandscaped and upgraded McKinley School of Arts’ curbside area.
For more information about the Martin Luther King Coalition, visit their website at pasadenamlk.org.