The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Darlene L. Williams, Contributing Writer

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.—Six local community leaders were awarded with the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Award at the 26th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee Community Award Breakfast. The event was held Monday, January 18, 2021.

Bakersfield College and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Committee hosted the hour long celebration, “DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.-AN AMERICAN ICON,” which aired on FOX58, virtually, from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.

Rev. Wesley Crawford, MLK Committee Chair, opened the event with remarks and paid homage to the slain civil rights leader, Dr. King.

Though much different from the well-attended event in years past where there were no social distancing restrictions or threats from a deadly pandemic, the televised event remained loyal in remembering the life and legacy of Dr. King, with several tributes from community leaders and dignitaries.

“Dr. King’s gift to us must transcend an annual holiday for an exemplary worldwide leader,” said, Mayor Karen Goh. “The precious gift of his words and actions must galvanize us all to fulfill that vision and legacy.”

Keynote Speaker, Publisher/Editor of the Bakersfield News Observer, James. C. Luckey Jr. congratulated the award recipients and commended The Southern Leadership Conference of Kern County and The MLK Committee for “preserving and pushing through to keep the spirit and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King alive in Kern County.”

Luckey, “The second youngest publisher and editor in the United States” stated, ”This year’s theme is, “To whom much is given, much is expected”, and what we’ve all been given is the gift of life, however, with that, I can’t help but remember all the lives we’ve lost over the past year due to COVID-19 and civil unrest.”

“And because of this gift we are blessed with, we all have a moral obligation to love and respect thy neighbor, be there for one another, and leave our community better than the way we found it,” Luckey said.

“It really is the core of what Dr. King stood for, fought for, and ultimately gave his life for— so that all of us have the opportunity to live out life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

The honorees of The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Award were: Pastors, Rev. John D and Althea Gillette Turner-Blessing Corner Ministries; NaTesha Brooke Johnson-CEO Upside Academy Incorporation; Carlos and Amy Baldovinos- Executive Director, The Mission at Kern County; and Dr. Ronnie Claiborne-Medical Director, Central Valley Medical Group.

“We have been blessed with many gifts and talents from our LORD, but what we give back is our gift on Earth to our community,” said Pastor Steve Watkin, Master of Ceremony and Pastor of Calvary Church of God in Christ.

“The recipients of this year’s awards have exemplified the spirit of paying it forward”, he said.

The dignitaries and community leaders who contributed to the virtual celebration included: Shannon Grove-California State Senate Minority Leader; Rudy Salas- California State Assembly Member; Leticia Perez-Kern County Supervisor 5th District; Eric Arias-Bakersfield City Councilmember; Vince Fong-California State Assembly Member; and Melissa Hurtado- California State Senator.

Special thanks and recognition was given to sponsors, US Representative Kevin and Judy McCarthy and State Assembly Member, Vince Fong.

The celebration also included a gospel hymn, “I’m Still Here”, by Salina Higgins Holmes, Bakersfield College Choir, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and a recording of the African American Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.

Rev. Dr. V.K. Jones, Pastor, Peoples Missionary Baptist Church, closed out the event with a prayer for the county, state, and country and gave thanks for the “legacy and lessons taught by Dr. King”.