'Progress is not inevitable'
Speakers at Medford's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Sunday urged people to take action now in the community and in their personal lives.
"'The time is always right to do what is right,'" keynote speaker Marjorie Trueblood-Gamble said, quoting from a King speech, as she addressed the audience in North Medford High School's auditorium.
Trueblood-Gamble, the director of diversity and inclusion at Southern Oregon University, said activists in the civil rights movement of the 1960s were counseled to be nice and patient — and to avoid pushing too hard for change. But she said change can only come from the hard work of dedicated individuals.
"Progress is not inevitable. We have to work for it," Trueblood-Gamble said, noting everyone can do something to make others' lives better, even if it's simply by giving a smile, saying a thoughtful word or listening.
DJ Gemineye, the upbeat radio personality from KISS 107.5, said King is as relevant today as he was when he was alive.
Gemineye urged the audience to see the movie "Selma," which chronicles King's civil rights struggles. He said the movie needs people's support, especially since many critics and fans believe it was snubbed during recently announced Academy Award nominations. It earned nominations for best picture and best original song, but the actors and director for the film were passed over.
Students from Abraham Elementary School in Medford brought poignancy and fresh voices to their reading of King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech as they took turns reading sections.
Quoting from King, the students called on people to put aside bitterness and hatred and sit down together in brotherhood.
The children spoke about their own dreams, including that people stop smoking to help curb cancer deaths, fight pollution of the land and water, and put an end to bullying and fighting.
Singer and songwriter Frankie Hernandez entertained the audience with his own compositions, as well as a cover of "Redemption Song" by reggae superstar Bob Marley.
Gene Burnett, another local singer and songwriter, urged people to "fight for what you want; don't wait for it to come; start right now." He teamed with poet T-Poe Varnado, who called on kids in the audience to take the torch from Baby Boom generation idealists.
"Kids, it's time to change the world again," Varnado said.
Performers from Ashland Danceworks mixed moves ranging from hip-hop to ballet, while Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre members clad in traditional clothing added Latin American rhythms to the event.
The Center for Nonprofit Legal Services in Medford and Peace House, headquartered in Ashland, received "I Have a Dream" awards.
The Center for Nonprofit Legal Services provides a broad array of help on non-criminal legal cases for low income residents of Jackson County. Attorneys assist with eviction prevention, immigration issues and other areas of the law.
Peace House promotes peace and non-violent conflict resolution, works for social and economic justice and serves hot, nutritious meals to the homeless and others in need through Uncle Food's Diner at the United Methodist Church in Ashland.
Others on hand to help lead the celebration included Pastor John David Gomez and Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler.