The San Francisco Interfaith Council hosted the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Yerba Buena Garden complex on Monday, January 21. The celebration featured an array of speakers, singers and events that brought the San Francisco Bay Area together to remember Dr. King and his legacy of service and his fight for racial justice.
“This is the legacy of Dr. King and his work,” said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, who is the second African American to hold that position in San Francisco. “Look at the people in leadership positions in San Francisco, starting with me to the mayor to countless others.”
Born and raised in Alabama, Scott moved to California and worked his way up the ranks of the Police Department in Los Angeles. After several years of service and a nationwide search, he was selected to be police chief in San Francisco.
“Dr. King’s fight for civil rights gave everyone a fair shot at opportunity,” continued Scott. “It gave people a chance to live and thrive. We still have a long ways go, but we are on our way.”
Other speakers at the event, which is in its 34th year, included U.S. House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Dr. Arelious Walker from True Hope Church of God and Christ, Rudy Corpuz from the United Playaz youth organization and Rev. Amos Brown from Third Baptist Church.
There were also various other events at the Yerba Buena Complex, including a Black and Brown Comic Book Festival for kids in the View Lounge at the Metreon, a speakers’ series at the Yerba Buena Auditorium and various arts and crafts for sale.
Kimberly Brandon, the President of the San Francisco Port Commission, was proud to be at Yerba Buena Gardens reflecting on King and his work.
“It’s 2019, and Dr. King and his work are needed more now than ever before,” said Brandon. “He was about freedom, respect and coming together and we need this during this time in our country.”
The Yerba Buena Gardens complex is home to a waterfall memorial of King, which has his various quotes, as well as pictures of local San Francisco Civil Rights leaders marching in the streets of San Francisco.
Aaron Grizzell, executive director of the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Foundation and one of the organizers of the celebration, was pleased with the turnout.
“This is one of the main spots in San Francisco for people to express ourselves and to be heard on this day,” said Grizzell.
Dr. Amos Brown, was one of eight students who King taught at Morehouse College in the 1960s. He looked at the day with gladness as well as some sadness.
“I am glad we are celebrating a great man today, but this ceremony in San Francisco is kind of tepid in my opinion,” said Dr. Brown.
“We have 800,000 people in San Francisco and there should at least be 8,000 people here,” said Dr. Brown. “If this was Cinco De Mayo or Gay Pride, this place would be packed, but it isn’t.”
Dr. Brown said that civil rights is on the back burner in San Francisco. He pointed to the decline in the city’s black population, which he said was unacceptable.
“The black community in San Francisco is almost extinct, including the cultural community,” continued Brown. “We have to fight this, and help bring in more black people to the city.” Brown said that this needs to be fought politically, with housing policies that help retain blacks in San Francisco, which is something that Dr. King would be in favor of in 2019.