The Merced County Fairgrounds was busy with activity on Monday morning as hundreds of Mercedians made their way to the start of the 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
Kicking off with a community gathering, the event was highlighted by the annual Peace March down Martin Luther King Jr. Way to the Merced Theatre on Main Street, where a program featuring local talent, performers, and speakers was held for the public.
This year’s theme was “Reclaiming My Time.”
Throughout the program, speakers gave testimony about the meaning of the day, and their words were punctuated by performances from local poets, school clubs, dance troupes, cultural groups, and other community standouts.
In addition to Pastor Morris’ keynote speech, associate professor of literature and affiliate faculty in philosophy at the University of California, Merced Nigel De Juan Hatton, spoke to residents about his interpretation of this year’s theme. Drawing on two definitions of time — time in the common sense of the word, as well as time and space — Hatton highlighted the importance of reclaiming both lost time and areas that have been lost to injustices.
Highlighting the Merced Theatre portion of the program was keynote speaker Pastor Robert A. Morris. Taking place inside of the Art Kamangar Center, Morris challenged residents of Merced to live up to the meaning of the city’s name.
During his speech, Morris drew on the meaning of Merced in Spanish, meaning mercy, to encourage those in attendance to continue the progress that has been made in securing freedom and rights for minority groups. Morris noted that by showing mercy, neighbors in a town who worry about those around them work to improve the community and help make sure needs are met.