On Sunday, January 18, a packed audience filled the Scottish Rite Center for In The Name of Love,  the 13th Annual Musical Tribute honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hosted by Living Jazz, the event remains Oakland’s only non denominational musical tribute to Dr. King, with this year’s theme celebrating the creative achievements of Bay Area based African American female musicians. Musical performances included Oakland Children’s Community Choir, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, and headlining acts Faye Carol, Linda Tillery, Gina Breedlove and Melanie DeMore.

East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) president and CEO Regina Jackson was presented with this year’s Oakland Citizen Humanitarian Award for her work with Oakland’s most vulnerable youth. When speaking on the importance of jazz at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, King stated “…modern jazz] sings the song of a more complicated urban existence.”

This year’s MLK day comes at a paramount time in our nation’s history as thousands take to the streets across the U.S against police brutality. In Oakland, activists declared 96 hours of direct action across the city to reclaim King’s legacy.

#ReclaimMLK

 

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Thousands took to the streets over MLK weekend, concluding with the Jobs and Economy March (pictured) Jan 19. Photo credit Daniel Arauz via Flickr Creative Commons.

 

Early Friday morning on Jan. 16, Third World Resistance for Black Power (TWRBP) organizers locked down the federal building downtown for four and a half hours. In the official statement released on TWRBP’s tumblr account, the event was in effort to “bring awareness of the heightened struggle for Black liberation, power, self-defense and self-determination in the U.S.” BART was also disrupted at Montgomery, Powell and Embarcadero stations by organizers, armed simply with spoons used to clank on metal poles, demanding for all charges to be dropped against the #BlackFriday14 organizers of Blackout Collective who shut down West Oakland BART Nov. 28 in response to the non indictment of Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown.

On Sunday, Jan. 18, a die-in was held at Walmart’s Edgewater Drive location in East Oakland in honor of John Crawford, 22, who was shot and killed by police inside an Ohio Walmart after picking up a BB gun.

Events of direct action concluded with a Jobs and Economy march Monday Jan 19, beginning at the Fruitvale BART station, the site where Oscar Grant was fatally shot by BART police officer  Johannes Mehserle New Years day six years earlier, culminating with a protest against gentrification at Coliseum City, a planned development project in East Oakland. Transit officials decided upon themselves to close Coliseum BART station as a precaution; it was not disrupted by protesters as other media outlets purported.

Protesters confronted newly elected mayor Libby Schaaf, also in attendance at the Living Jazz event, early Monday morning. Around dawn, protesters awakened Schaaf and her family at their home, waiving banners, yelling chants and outlining bodies in the street representing lives lost at the hands of some of the most decorated members of the Oakland Police Department.

For her first day in office, Schaaf spent the day devoted to meetings with OPD, outraging  many residents who believed it to be contradictory to her promise of being “the people’s mayor.” Understandably, OPD has been involved in numerous accounts of police misconduct, leading for the federal government to intervene, threatening to take over the failing department after the ‘Riders’ scandal.

King had long been critical of police, often speaking out on the use of excessive force commonly used against African Americans. During his iconic I Have A Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, King addressed the issue, proclaiming satisfaction cannot be achieved so long as racism continues to exist in America.

“As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality… No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

When speaking with Millions March Oakland organizer Etecia Brown, Brown made it clear that MLK Day is more than a typical hallmark holiday. “People lose sight of remembering [King’s] legacy…we’re carrying the torch of the civil rights movement, we’re reclaiming what King stood for. Our freedom is still not obtained,”  concluded Brown. “We will continue to stand up and speak against injustices. The civil rights movement never stopped.” 

About The Author

My family has been rooted in Oakland since the 1920's, we are deeply involved in Oakland culture--my family is one part of the infamous Escovedo clan. Honoring Oakland's vibrant arts and culture has been an integral aspect of me since birth. You can catch my regular antics on my personal blog naturalisticallychic.com, or at wearyourvoicemag.com, where I serve as Senior Editor & Director of Editorial Projects.

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