By Gloria Zuurveen,Editor-in-Chief
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, led by Pastor William D. Smart Jr., Co-Pastor/CEO, recently hosted the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Awards and Benefits Gala at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel on January 14th. This prestigious event aimed to shine a light on the man and his mission, honoring the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s extraordinary contributions to society. Pastor Smart, together with his wife and Co-Pastor, Pastor Thembekila, took great joy in recognizing and honoring individuals who have become champions, light bearers, and replicators of Dr. King’s work. The illustrious group of honorees included prominent figures such as Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D., California Secretary of State, who received the esteemed Rosa Parks Humanitarian Award. Attorney Do Kim, President of the K.W. Lee Center for Leadership, was bestowed with the Drum Major for Justice Awards. Dr. Mark & Avis Ridley-Thomas, pioneers in their fields, became the first recipients of the Rev. James M. & Dorothy Lawson Transformational Resistance Award. Brother Ayuko Babu, Executive Director of the Pan African Film Festival, received the inaugural SCLC-SC Kisanli Award. Additionally, Dr. John H. Griffith, PhD, President/CEO of the Kedren Community Health Center, and Dr. Jerry Abraham, MD, Program Director Vaccines Kedren Community Health Center, were recognized with the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Justice Award.
The Master of Ceremonies for the night’s event was Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, who gracefully led the audience through an evening dedicated to continuing Dr. King’s legacy and honoring his visionary spirit. However, while the focus was on celebrating these champions and light bearers, it was crucial not to lose sight of Dr. King’s mission. His mission for “I Am A Man” emphasized the power of one man, one vote, and the ability to effect change. Pastor Smart emphasized the importance of activating courage in order to strive for a better future. He stated, “Tonight, we must activate the courage to rise up and look for a better day. And that better day starts within us.
Our promise of hope and determination to better world, where love abides, conflicts are negotiated, and war is attenuated, lies within ourselves. Although I am dismayed by the current state of the world and America, I still hold onto the promise and hope that there is something new that can emerge from within us.” He further emphasized Dr. King’s belief that one of the most powerful agents of change is the right to vote. This event served as a reminder of the significance of Dr. King’s work and the enduring impact it continues to have on society. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Awards and Benefits Gala not only acknowledged the extraordinary individuals who follow in his footsteps but also reinforced the importance of embracing Dr. King’s message of love, peace, and equality. Through their collective efforts, it is hoped that a better world, guided by Dr. King’s principles, can be realized.