Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is annually honored, and the Riverside community takes part in this tribute in many ways. This year, the Riverside African American Historical Society Inc. hosted its 25th annual Walk-a-Thon to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a community.
The walk started at Stratton Community Center and ended at the Riverside Community College Digital Library where there was a 40-minute program focused on honoring community members who represent the theme of the walk, “Silent No More,” throughout the year.
The celebration did not end with the walk itself but continued with festivities such as booths, live entertainment and speakers.
Jalani Bakari, chair of the event, explained the theme for this year’s walk.
“(The theme is to) ask citizens not to be silent, and to march and speak out to those things which separate and hold us back from the greatness Dr. King dreamed,” Bakari said.
Participants had the option of purchasing a ticket to the event for $15. The proceeds went entirely to supply T-shirts to walkers, maintenance of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue, the cost of the walk, support of the civil rights institute by the RAAHS and scholarships for Clarke & Greir College.
Bakari explained how the walk began and has continued to grow over the past 25 years.
“The Martin Luther King Jr. Walk-a-Thon was conceived by a group of individuals whose steadfast effort first helped create the statue of Dr. King downtown: The MLK Visionary Society,” Bakari said. “Over the years, the Visionary Society, along with the RAAHS, has taken leadership in creating an event where the community can come together, walk and talk and share the experiences of each other here in Inland Southern California.”
Bakari said one of the main goals of hosting the Walk-a-Thon each year is to create unity within the community.
“The MLK walk is an opportunity for us as citizens to share in open dialogue, a healthy activity, as we commemorate a Nobel Peace Prize American hero,” Bakari said. “This day is to be celebrated with the types of activities of which Dr. King would be proud. Young, aged, black, white, Jew or Gentile, we are all precious and bring value to a world in transition.”
Bakari said he especially wanted to encourage youth to attend and meet each other, flourishing off of each other’s ideas and truly seeking to understand what life looks like from behind the lens of another.
The Walk-a-Thon provided a way to meet others from within the community, shake their hands and understand the different ways of life and thinking that coexist in cities like Riverside.
“I always look for the student – elder relationships being budded and growing each year through the march,” Bakari said. “I have walked in 22 of the 25 marches and love to see those I have seen throughout the decades.”
Bakari said his personal goal is that the walk would provide a safe place to gather together and promote discussion about the possibility of full inclusiveness.
Anabel Lopez, Riverside Youth Council special events coordinator, played a major role in organizing the walk. In past years, Lopez has observed the event and been a participant but this is the first year she played an integral role in the planning of the tribute walk.
“This is my second year now with the Martin Luther King Walk,” Lopez said. “Last year, I was actually just a member.”
Lopez said she saw the work she put into planning the event come to fruition the day of the walk when she got to see all her family and friends participating together.
“Last year, I was more of just watching everything happen. This year, it’s more of watching all my hard work pay off,” Lopez said. “The most exciting part for me is seeing everyone happy and seeing how everything came together, its like, ‘Wow!’ I did this. This is so great how this happened and I got to be a part of it.”
Cameron Cash, sophomore graphic design major, attended the walk and said she loved seeing everyone so excited to be together as a community.
“What I saw is just a lot of camaraderie and love between strangers,” Cash said. “It makes me excited to be a part of it.”
Cash had never been to a public walk or march before so she was excited to experience the tribute walk for the very first time.
“I’ve never been on a walk like this before so it’s all a new experience,” Cash said. “I’m excited to take in all of what is happening.”
Cash also encouraged the CBU community to take part in future events to get involved in the Riverside community.
“You get to hear people’s stories that you never would have met before the event. You get to talk to people who have the same passion for life as you do and that’s super rewarding,” Cash said. “It’s empowering to get involved in the community, especially if you’re not from Riverside. This is a great way to meet kind people who have the same goal as you do.”
The Walk-a-Thon highlighted the importance of community-wide growth in relationships and face-to-face interactions that generate positive
To find out more information about the RAAHS, or future events visit raahsinc.org.