Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Community Awards Breakfast

By Jason Land Jr., Student Correspondent

In reminiscence of activist and Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, citizens of Bakersfield communed together. On the morning of January 20th, 2020, over 450 locals, elected officials, and community leaders gathered in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center at 1000 South Owens St. Following tradition, local dignitaries were recognized for their outstanding work within the community.

The MLK Community Awards Breakfast serves concurrently as a medium to celebrate individuals upholding King’s vision of “The Fierce Urgency of Now” and to simulate the fire of equality he ignited within the global community with togetherness. Among many recipients, Kathleen Faulkner was a beneficiary of the committee’s Humanity Award. Her acceptance speech entailed the refusal of any form of racism and a demand of justice for all.  “The calling of my life is a fight for Civil Rights of individuals since I was very young. Now, my greatest passion is for preventing the criminalization of our young people before they’ve even had a real chance of life. We need to break the cycle of incarceration. If any one person is hurt by injustice, it hurts all of us. One of my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes was written in the Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963— ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Kathleen Ellis Faulkner, Faulkner and Faulkner Law Offices

With 2020 marking the 20th anniversary of the MLK Annual Community Awards Breakfast, Pastor Wesley Crawford recollected past years. He makes mention of the tumultuous journey of garnering members and supporters of the MLK Breakfast and how far the entire movement has evolved. Like Dr. King, Reverend Wesley pushed on in his dream to better his community and those around him.

Dr. Brenda Lewis, Associate Superintendent of the Kern High School District, was awarded the opportunity to be keynote speaker of the breakfast, and gave a moving speech.

“This day of remembrance in Dr. King’s honor is the perfect opportunity for all of us to reflect on our life’s work and our life’s purpose. It is to examine it in relation to the daily challenges we and our fellow human beings face. [King] was not one to shy away from challenges and he wasn’t afraid to publicly call out things that were wrong. Dr. King was a person that possessed clear vision, conviction, and courage. [He] can be revered as one of the greatest pathfinders of all time— and possibly that ever lived.” — Dr. Brenda Lewis, Associate Superintendent of Kern High School District

Other award recipients included: Josephine Triplett – Professor of Child Development (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & Mayor Harvey L. Hall Visionaries Award), Polly Warren – Past Directors & 40 years Community Business (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & Councilman Veronas Strong Visionaries Award), Delores Huerta – Co-Founder United Farm Workers (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & Stephanie W. Campbell Community Service Award), Kenneth Keller- President & Chief Executive Officer of Bakersfield (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major Lifetime Achievement Award), Allen Thigpen – National Director of “We Are G.A.M.E” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major Lifetime Achievement Award). The Health Scholarship Award winners were Nancy Gonzalez & Ashli Wilkins.

The Master of Ceremony was Pastor Steven Watkin (Bakersfield College Director of Outreach and School Relations) & First Lady Kimberly Watkin. Both did a fantastic job of moving the briefest along in a timely matter and keeping the room entertained and engaged.