Bay Area Martin Luther King. Jr. Day Celebrations, Closures

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has become more than a yearly memorial to the civil rights leader, but a day of service. Throughout the nation, thousands of people will give back to their communities, just as Dr. King did.

This morning, hundreds of riders embarked from San Mateo on the Celebration Train by way of Caltrain #135. The celebration, an offshoot of the annual Freedom Train, honors the legacy of the late Coretta Scott King and her husband by providing special MLK Day train service for people from the South Bay and Peninsula who want to celebrate in San Francisco.

The 54-mile train ride ends in San Francisco for the city’s annual parade commemorating King’s 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

In San Jose, Mayor Sam Liccardo will attend a MLK Day luncheon to honor Iola Williams, former vice mayor of San Jose and the first African American elected to the City Council

In the East Bay, a number of other events will take place today. Hayward plays host to a free MLK Day celebration featuring actress and writer Donzaleigh Abernathy, daughter of civil rights activist Rev. Ralph Abernathy, at 4:30pm at the Chabot College Performing Arts Center.

Several observances are happening in Oakland throughout the day, including the 10th annual MLK Jr. Film Festival at the city’s African American Museum and Library. For something more hands-on, the East Bay Regional Park District will spend the first part of the day with volunteers to remove invasive plants.

Two morning services start at 10:30 today in San Leandro: the Celebration and Oratorical Festival and the Celebration Honoring Dr. King. Both take places at the city’s Senior Community Center.

For more events throughout the Bay Area, click here. Follow @NorcalMLK on Twitter for updates about local events. To see what's happening around nationwide, follow the hashtag #MLKday2016. Most state, federal and local government offices are closed, including local libraries, post offices and city halls.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris this morning called for people to rededicate themselves two Dr. King's vision. Here's her entire statement:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. united and inspired people to fight for and demand a more just nation in a time of violent and systemic racism, when millions of Americans were denied their right to vote and basic human and civil rights, and when racial enmity was stoked and exploited by voices of reaction.  

Today, many thousands of people, young and old, have been marching in the streets to decry the injustices their communities have suffered for far too long.  They are demanding an end to the killing of unarmed Black men like Trayvon Martin and Walter Scott.  They are demanding a justice system where the color of one's skin does not predetermine the measure of justice received.  They are demanding economic opportunity in long-suffering communities.  And they are demanding true inclusion and acceptance of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or identity.  

Let us recommit ourselves to Dr. King's vision—his unyielding demand for justice and an end to bigotry.  As Dr. King did in his time, let us reject any voice of intolerance that would vilify people based on their race or religion. We must look to Dr. King's vision to inspire real change, not just today but every day.

To revisit some of Dr.King’s famous speeches, letters and other writings, visit the King Center's digital archives. Don’t forget some of his lesser known work. Meanwhile, read up on the history about why and how this became a holiday in the first place and what Stevie Wonder had to do with it.

13 Comments

  1. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

    Sounds to me like Dr. King would NOT be celebrating our “first black president”, but WOULD be judging presidential candidates on the “content of their character”.

    Hmmmm. Which presidential candidates come to mind as being persons of “high character”?

  2. Seems to be the Black one in the Wrong Party!
    I’m sure the primary’s will be over before anyone in California has to cross a party line to vote for him!

  3. How many hammer blows to the head are required to so damage the brain that one thinks it reasonable to wish a “happy 87th birthday” to a man who was murdered when he was 39? I wonder if Mike Ryan sends out “bon voyage” wishes annually to passengers on the anniversary of the Titanic’s maiden voyage?

  4. As the former President of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley, I have to say that I am deeply saddened and disappointed in the media for their misrepresentation of the Freedom Train and the new Celebration Train. The Freedom Train and the new Celebration Train are NOT one in the same! Had the media bothered to contact me, they would have had their facts correct.

    Tonight, every TV news station I saw gave out misinformation stating that the Freedom Train had been saved and had new sponsors. That is absolutely untrue. They also said that past Freedom Trains lacked sponsorship, NOT TRUE either. We had awesome sponsors!

    The true MLK Freedom Train was started by Coretta Scott King through the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association here in San Jose almost 34 years ago, and the Freedom Train made its LAST run LAST Jan. 2015 due to lack of public interest, competition from other events on MLK Day, and low ridership.

    During our discussions with Caltrain and Norcal MLK, about the Freedom Train and the Celebration Train, we made it very clear that while we supported their need to run a train from San Jose to San Francisco to ensure attendance in SF for their vital events honoring Dr. King’s life, legend, and legacy, that they were not allowed to use the name Freedom Train, nor could they associate the new Celebration Train with the Freedom Train. They agreed to honor and respect that request. (I guess the media decided to ignore their responsibility to get their facts straight before misreporting the Celebration Train’s debut today.)

    Further, last year, we made a request to Mark Simon, of Caltrain, that we be allowed to hang commemorative plaques for the Freedom Train at both the San Jose and San Francisco Train Stations as we felt this piece of history needed to be honored and remembered. We were told that our request would be reviewed and when they had a policy regarding plaques at their train stations, they would get back to us.

    In the meantime, we held a Freedom Train Commemoration Ceremony in March of 2015 at the African American Heritage House (AAHH) at History Park San Jose. I hope your readers will go by and see the beautiful exhibit the AAHH put together to honor the Freedom Train. It explains the history of the Freedom Train and what it stood for.

    My hope is that now your readers will understand the history of the Freedom Train, and will be able to differentiate between the TRUE Freedom Train and this new Celebration Train.

    • I’m not sure that explanation cleared that up for me, but thanks for trying!
      Maybe we should call it Underground Railroad day and take BART…………..

      • Empty Gun,
        What more can I say about the two trains other than that Coretta Scott King founded the Freedom Train, and NOT the Celebration Train that made its debut yesterday?

        • I’m getting the impression that the name ‘Freedom Train” is ether copy righted or the intellectual property of the King family much as the speeches and papers of the late MLK.

          In that case I can see why any commercial enterprise may want to distance it self from the events name.
          There is no point in doing a good deed and getting sued for it in which case the name change makes perfect scene.

          Whats the harm in a name change if you got your ride for free?

          • Empty Gun,
            No one has a problem with the new Celebration Train. The problem is with the media giving out misinformation and reporting false facts. It is as simple as that.

          • Kathleen,
            Misinformation and false facts and stupid stores seems to be the main job of the “government-media complex” these days. That’s why most Republicans are afraid to say anything anymore.

  5. > My hope is that now your readers will understand the history of the Freedom Train, and will be able to differentiate between the TRUE Freedom Train and this new Celebration Train.

    Well, no. I do NOT really understand the difference between the Freedom Train and the Celebration Train.

    And I suspect that there is a real, profound difference.

    Dr. King’s legacy was transformative, and it was bound up with a strong message of “freedom” and “liberty”.

    The overwhelming majority of Americans can get behind this.

    But that’s a problem for those who wish to keep blacks on the big government plantation as eternal avatars of victimhood and dependency.

    Hence, “freedom” NOT good because it makes people think about, well, “freedom”.

    Better to convince people that they should “celebrate” something else. So, what is it we’re suppose to “celebrate”?

    Obama’s blackness?

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, . . .”

    • “Well, no. I do NOT really understand the difference between the Freedom Train and the Celebration Train.

      And I suspect that there is a real, profound difference.”

      Yes, there is a big difference because keeping the integrity of the Freedom Train’s history and purpose is vital. The Freedom Train was started by Coretta Scott King, the Celebration Train was created by Caltrain, Norcal MLK, and PG&E.

      When Coretta Scott King started the Freedom Train it was for the sole purpose of commemorating King’s 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. At the time of its inception, there were no events in SF. Freedom Train riders took the Freedom Train back to San Jose from San Francisco to attend a luncheon honoring Dr. King’s life, legend, and legacy. That luncheon still takes place every year and is currently sponsored by the African American Community Service Agency.

      • > the Celebration Train was created by Caltrain, Norcal MLK, and PG&E.

        Caltrain is known for trains, but not known for freedom or celebration.

        PC&E is not known for trains, or freedom, or celebrations.

        Norcal MLK is known for . . . I don’t know what.

        It people involved with the Freedom Train REALLY wanted to get noticed and support the legacy of Dr. King, they would have announced after the LAST Freedom Train, that the were replacing the Freedom Train with a Black Freedom Caucus of the Libertarian Party.

        THAT would have really made people sit up and take notice.