The “Mesa MLK Celebration” was held in downtown Mesa on Jan. 19 to pay tribute to civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The events included a parade and festival with entertainment. The parade began on MLK Way and Center Drive and included many entries by local organizations and schools. The event also held a peanut butter and jelly drive by partnering with the United Food Bank. “People said they were really happy to see more entries in the parade. They were really happy to see us promoting the idea of ending hunger through our peanut butter and jelly drive,” said Clifford Moon, chairperson for the Mesa Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee.
The parade concluded in front of the Mesa Arts Center where the festival immediately started. The festival was lively with a lot of people, vendors, and entertainment. According to Moon, attendance at the festival was estimated to be more than 7,000 people. “We had story tellers, we had music, we had dancing and then of course what we tried to do is have the festival as an opportunity for nonprofit agencies that provide services to folks in the community come out.” According to Moon, the MLK events are an opportunity for people who believe and practice in the ideas of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to gather and reflect on those ideas with likeminded people.
“I think it also gives folks an opportunity to recognize that the ideas and the practices that Dr. King professed and also practiced are just as relevant today as they were in the 1960s.” MCC student, Manny Banda, attended the events and marched in the parade. “I went because I am privileged as an African American living in 2015,” said Banda. “I have inherited the opportunities that this man and the countless others who gave their lives, struggled and bled for.” “I also went to honor Dr. King’s vision for the equality and coexistence and inclusion of all human kind. I can only hope that my actions and my existence serve to realize his vision,” Banda added.
Moon said he thought King would encourage people today to continue to use activism and communication to improve our country. “If Dr. King were alive today I truly believe that on one hand he would say, ‘We’ve come a long way,’ but I think with all the issues he would say, ‘Let’s continue to march, and let’s continue to bring people together, but let’s have a sharing of ideas, and get some things into actions so we can make, not just Mesa a better community, but the United States as a whole a better community,” Moon said.
The MLK Committee is planning more events throughout the year, according to Moon. “We were in recent talks with the Mayor (John) Giles, about doing something other than the traditional January celebratory events,” said Moon. “We’ll be putting together a Juneteenth celebration in Mesa and then having an African American town hall also in Mesa.” “The mayor said that he would support those ideas if there was a way of acknowledging the diverse culture, and having the opportunity for folks to learn about the different cultures that are in Mesa,” Moon said.