MLK panel discusses old, current civil rights issues

Photo by Cristian Vasquez. DISCUSSION: Panelists Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, left, Robert Farrell, Funmilola Fagbamila and Bobby Grace shared their thoughts and expertise on topics such as the Freedom Riders of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, police brutality,

Local leaders, social activists, residents and people from surrounding cities gathered for this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the Senior Center.

The day’s events began with Dr. King Celebration Committee Chairman Wayne Slappy welcoming everyone to the event and reading a poem.

“This wonderful event started as a picnic and people talking about the idea of putting something together like this,” Slappy said. “Among those people were Gary Silbiger and Mr. and Mrs. Davis.”

Silbiger was present at the event, as were the Co-Founders of the Culver City Dr. King Celebration Committee Bilson and Saundra Davis, who emceed the day’s activities.

The day featured a panel discussion moderated by KPFK’s “Sojourner Truth Show” host Margaret Prescod and panelists Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, Community Activist; Robert (Bobby) Grace, Los Angeles County Prosecutor; Robert C. Farrell, former Los Angeles City Councilmember; and Funmilola Fagbamila, graduate student of African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“It is wonderful to be here,” Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells said. “I just had to stand up and be a cheerleader for this event, for the organizers and for the grassroots organizing it took to get to this place today. We want to thank the activists, we want to thank the organizers and we want to thank the grassroots because obviously the movement of Dr. Martin Luther King was not only the movement of a nation but of the world. We still struggle in our own little city with problems.”

The mayor addressed how the city’s council has not seen an elected official of African-American descent or how there have only been five women elected to the council. The discussion panel also addressed current national issues such as police violence, community activism, apathy among young people and the importance of knowing one’s history.

Attendees were treated to a dramatic rendition of Dr. King’s “I have a Dream Speech” by actor Gerald C. Rivers; and a special performance by 7th and 8th graders from Ocean Charter School playing authentic djembe drums from West Africa as a tribute to Dr. King as well as a musical performance by saxophonist Keschia Potter and pianist Trevor Jennings.

The day’s activities ended with the film screening of “Freedom Summer,” directed by acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Earl Nelson, Jr. The featured film “Freedom Summer” highlights an overlooked but essential element of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement: the patient and long-term efforts by outside activists and local citizens in Mississippi to organize communities and register black voters — even in the face of intimidation, physical violence and death.

Photo by Cristian Vasquez. EXPERIENCE: Host of Pacifica Radio’s (KPFK) show Sojourner Truth Margaret Prescod moderated the day’s event. Prescod is a long-time community-based activist advocating women’s rights and fighting racism. Among the personal
Photo by Cristian Vasquez. DYNAMIC DUO: Trevor Jennings and Keschia Potter graced the audience with a duo performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Jennings shared his talents on the piano while Potter took center stage with the saxophone. Potter is
Photo by Cristian Vasquez. LEADER: Culver City Martin Luther King Jr. Committee Chairman Wayne Slappy spearheaded this year’s effort to put together the City of Culver City 10th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. This year’s theme for the
Photo by Cristian Vasquez. WELL-COORDINATED: Students from the Ocean Charter School brought the room to life with their drum performance. The the eight-and ninth-grade students performed their number prior to a rendition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s
Photo by Cristian Vasquez. CENTER STAGE: From left, former Culver City Martin Luther King Jr. Committee Chairpersons Hyacinth McLeod, Bill Wynn, Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, former MLK Jr. Committee Chairpersons Rupert Francisco, and Lauren Brow
Photo by Cristian Vasquez. LOCALS: Culver City resident Tom Cumarella and Culver City Councilman Jim B. Clarke were all smiles during the intermission at this year’s MLK Day celebration. Following the panel’s discussion, which opened the first half of
Photo by Cristian Vasquez. ACTIVE IN THE COMMUNITY: Saundra and Bilson Davis helped lead the day’s activities. The couple acknowledged the contributions made by former Culver City Councilman and Mayor Gary Silbiger to the creation of the city’s Dr. Ki
Photo by Cristian Vasquez. MUSICAL: Trevor Jennings showcased his skills on the piano for attendees during the Dr. King’s celebration.
Photo by Cristian Vasquez. Keschia Potter graced the audience with a duo performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Jennings shared his talents on the piano while Potter took center stage with the saxophone. Potter is a Los Angeles-born songwriter, p
Photo by Cristian Vasquez. Saundra and Bilson Davis introduced Gary Silbiger, center, who was instrumental in organizing the first MLK Day event.
Photo by Cristian Vasquez. GREETINGS: Konstantin Hatcher, left, and Bill Wynn stood outside of the Culver City Senior Center and welcomed people as they lined up to enter the Dr. King celebration. Wynn is a former Culver City Martin Luther King Jr. Commit