Jan. 18—For the first time in two years, residents joined community and religious leaders for the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March on Saturday in Yuba City and Marysville, which has been happening locally since 1999.
The MLK Unity March was virtual last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Marcia Chambers and her crew brought it back to a live march, beginning at the old Yuba-Sutter Courthouse on B Street in Yuba City and then over the Twin Cities Memorial Bridge into Marysville.
The finish line again was Bethel AME Church on 5th Street, which Yuba-Sutter Habitat for Humanity Deputy Director John Nicoletti said was one of the first Black churches in California.
"The original 36 members were partially ex-slaves, who wanted to settle in Northern California," Nicoletti said. "The past 23 years (the march) always reminds us that community is first. It's always great to see young people."
There were plenty of the next generation present at the march — some walking with their families, others solo.
Most were in agreement that a march felt like the right thing to do to honor King.
"We wanted to come and support our community," said Yuba City resident Monica Velazquez, completing her first march ever. "(MLK Day) means huge change for the whole world. It opened the eyes of a lot of people to the injustices."
Velazquez said this is now her January tradition, saying that she wants to do it every year with her family.
Chambers, a pastor at Emmanuel Family Worship Center, said to have the community back live and in-person walking in unison over the bridge that was included in the original route put together by Charlese "Lisa" Harris in 1999 is a wonderful way to honor King's legacy.
"We are happy for everyone who came out," said Chambers.
Chambers said the Unity March symbolizes what King stood for during his life.
"His marches with people that he represented were always peaceful," Chambers said. "That's what he always encouraged to bring about the changes he wanted to implement."
Many of the community's leaders also strapped on their best walking boots to hit the trail side-by-side with the mid-valley locals.
"It's a true honor and privilege to stand beside everyone today to commemorate an amazing individual," Sutter County District 4 Supervisor Karm Bains said.
Bains said King paved the way for many, including himself.
"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him," Bains said.
Sutter County District 5 Supervisor Mat Conant said Saturday is about remembering King for helping establish the freedoms that we cherish every day.
"Today we remember Martin Luther King's commitment to free speech, people's right to assemble and work together as all races to make a better life for all of us," Conant said. "MLK was a great leader for all of America and we must remember him today."
There were even a few leaders who showed up for the first time to march for King. Yuba County District 4 Supervisor Gary Bradford said it's important to stand united in the fight against systemic racism.
"I wanted to honor the legacy and what he stood for," Bradford said. "Certainly our community has some challenges lately with respect to racist slogans and we need to stand up together as a community and fight against that."