HEBER — On Saturday morning, members of the community came together to take part in the Martin Luther King Jr. prayer breakfast and Stone of Hope Award Ceremony in Heber.
Hundreds of people arrived at the Gobi’s facility dressed in formal attire and mingled over fresh fruit, juice, and coffee with classical music setting the elegant ambiance as the public eagerly anticipated the event’s commencement.
The program began with the Imagine School Color Guard marching in with flag in arms to initiate the presentation of colors.
El Centro Mayor Alex Cardenas, Board of Supervisors Vice-chair Ray Castillo, and Mistress of Ceremony Amy Dees, greeted and welcomed all the participants for taking part in and attending the award ceremony.
After a brief prayer of thankfulness and nourishment, the food was served. Event goers enjoyed ham and cheese omlettes, hash-browns, and cheesecake. Judith Malone provided a live concert throughout the breakfast singing classic hits such as Motown’s I Heard it Through the Grapevine, and the Fugees version of Killing me Softly.
At the conclusion of breakfast, guest speakers Lupe Quintero and Gregory Hamilton discussed the importance of inclusion, unity, and education as a forum for peace, equality, and social tolerance.
“We are in a culture where it has become easy to sit look at somebody with dark skin and say, ‘I don’t like them because they’re dark skinned,’ but we’re all the same underneath – we have the same blood, it’s just as red everyone else’s,” preached Hamilton.
Kevin McFadden was recognized, honored, and remembered for his involvement in inspiring youth with faith and goodwill. McFadden had a passion for recreational sports and used basketball as a means to convey the value of teamwork and dignity to young men. His wife, Sara McFadden, was there to receive the award in his honor.
The rest of the Martin Luther King Stone of Hope Recipients were:
Lind Thomas and Diana Shelton- Founders of TREES (Teach, Respect, Educate, Empower, Self); an organization dedicated to empowering the youth of tomorrow.
Mark Ramirez – Imperial County Board of Education.
Valeria Moran – President of Students for Political Awareness and Action (SPAA), who assisted in registering over 400 new voters this election.
Luis Olmedo – Environmental Activist and Executive Director of Comite Civico del Valle.
Hilton and Wesley Smith- Organizers of the Black Lives Matter human rights movement in Imperial County.
Catalina Alcatar-Santillan – Board member of the Pioneers Memorial Hospital District.
“There was a time in my life where I may have taken Martin Luther King for granted; but I realized over the years and today that I am thankful for his contributions to life, the life of myself, and everyone else’s lives in the United States and for promoting a better life for people around the world. ”- Closing Stone of Hope recipient, Kevin Washington.
“The event was very unifying and it was encouraging in light of the disappointment in the election turnout, to see this many people still with hope and still saying, ‘Yes we can,’” Hamilton said about the turnout.