Donzaleigh Abernathy

Donzaleigh Abernathy

*Hawthorne, CA  – The third weekend in January is looked upon with great anticipation. This is when Americans all across the country commemorates the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.-The Drum Major for Justice, with programs leading up to the official holiday on Monday, January 20, 2014.

A capacity multi-cultural, multi ethnic crowd gathered inside the Hawthorne Memorial Center on Saturday, January 18, to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. The program entitled “A Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Public Forum-Building Upon The Dream: Working Together to Create Dr. King’s Beloved Community.”

The crowd of more than 325 Southland residents consisted of elected officials, community leaders and residents from throughout Los Angeles. Former Los Angeles City Councilmember Nate Holden, Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke, Los Angeles City Councilmember Bernard Parks, 8th District and his wife Bobbie Parks, Hawthorne Mayor Chris Brown, Hawthorne Mayor Pro Tem Angie English and Hawthorne Councilmember Olivia Valentine, Hawthorne Treasurer L. David Patterson and Gloria D. Gray, West Basin Municipal Water District Board of Directors were the invited elected officials in attendance.

The event was co-hosted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), State Senator Rodrick Wright, 35th District, State Assemblymembers Steven Bradford, 62nd District and Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr., 59th District.

scaqmd officials & guests

William A. Burke, Senator Rodrick Wright, Denise Nicholas and Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer,Sr.

The program officially got under way with the Invocation recited by Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Sr., Presiding Prelate, Fifth Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church. Hawthorne Mayor Chris Brown led the crowd in “The Pledge of Allegiance.
“Clean air is a basic human right,” stated William A. Burke, Ed.D., SCAQMD’s Governing Board Chairman. “If Martin Luther King, Jr., were alive today, I know that he would fight for environmental justice for every man, women and child.” Senator Rodrick Wright and Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer delivered opening remarks at the event.
The guest speaker for the occassion were actress Denise Nicholas. She has starred in television shows such as “Room 222” and “In the Heat of the Night,” garnering three Golden Globe nominations, three NAACP Image Awards, and two Emmy Awards. She read excerpts of writings of Coretta Scott King as well as spoke about her own involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

The crowd enjoyed a delicious hot lunch that was catered by La Sassier. Debbie Joyce and her tight trio entertained everyone with an elegant set of jazz standards. The video “The Right To Breathe” highlighted the tremendous job of the SCAQMD Team Members. Each attendee received a complimentary tote bag with timely information to reduce their exposure to smog and the residue of the Colby fire.

Keynote speaker Donzaleigh Abernathy delivered a phenomenal message and took the crowd through a chronological journey of the Civil Rights Movement with a historic powerpoint presentation. Ms Abernathy is the author of “Partners to History, Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy and the Civil Rights Movement.” Her father, Rev. Ralph Abernathy was a close friend of King and another pillar of the American Civil Rights Movement. She concluded her speech with a challenge to the audience, “What kind of legacy will your life will be remembered?”

SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Please visit for more information.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]

debbie joyce (scaqmd)

Singer Debbie Joyce