EL CENTRO – From the Martin Luther King Jr. Pavilion to the Superior Courthouse, loud, powerful chants could be heard from activists demanding change. The Black Lives Matter march and ceremony took place Tuesday, urging the community for a better future.
“First and foremost we want people to know we are an inclusive, nonviolent group,” explained Hilton Smith, the organizer of the movement.
“Basically we’re here to show awareness to the community. There are a lot of things going on at a national scale such as police misconduct. We’re here to make sure Imperial Valley is represented and the people are treated fairly. We plan to expand the Black Lives Matter movement throughout the community because inequality has been going on for far too long.”
“We also want to make it clear that all lives matter, not just black lives, and also that we should have responsible law enforcement, no matter the color of the officer,” said Smith.
Starting from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sports Pavilion, the march took place all the way down N Eighth Street then turned at W Main Street to the Court House. Bright colored signs and banners were carried with powerful statements such as “Respect” and “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police”. Along with t-shirts reading “Black Lives Matter” and organized chants, the group demanded to be noticed by the community.
‘Black lives matter. Not that any other lives don’t matter as much as ours, but we’re not going to stand around and get murdered,” said Dion Brooks, a fellow activist of the group. “Due to recent tragedies, we all have a responsibility for our kids and community. By doing this we’re showing both our kids and our community we’re trying to make a better change.”
“We also have a responsibility to stop fighting each other,” said Brooks.
A ceremony was held once the marchers arrived at the courthouse. Banners of Martin Luther King Jr. were hung which read “Honoring the Legacy” along with portraits of him. The ceremony commenced with a junior military marching drill band & flag performance to honor Dr. King.
Various activist, such as Hilton Smith and Marlene Thomas, gave speeches about Dr. King with intermissions of live jazz music in between.
Hilton Smith started his speech with the powerful question: “If Martin (Luther King Jr.) were here today, he would say, why did I have to die..? ” then he listed famous recent cases of alleged racial brutality such as Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin.
Jason Jackson, the Mayor of El Centro, also spoke about Dr. King, “Today as we gather to honor our leader, let us not leave without optimistic thoughts of making the Imperial Valley a better place.”
“His legacy is still alive, the question is what are you doing to keep it alive. What are you doing to make a difference? Everyone here can do something to make a difference, and every one of you today participated and did something to make a difference,” said Marlene Thomas, a fellow activist of the group, who gave the final speech of the ceremony.
The ceremony concluded with the group coming together in a circle on the steps of the courthouse with each person holding the hand next to them, chanting: “We shall overcome.. Black, white, and brown together.”[envira-gallery id=”70980″]