Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as in every year for the past 30, hundreds of passengers boarded the Caltrain from San Jose to San Francisco to commemorate the legacy of the slain civil rights leader. The 54-mile journey marks the same distance King and thousands of activists marched in 1965 from Selma to the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, Ala., where they campaigned for the voting rights.

The San Jose-to-SF Freedom Train event is the last of its kind in the nation, organizers say. The idea came from King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who raised money to start the tradition in the Bay Area. The rides are marked by music and stories—gospel songs and speeches from people who lived through and advanced the civil rights movement.

Though a political spat between the NAACP and organizers of the event means this may be the final year for the Freedom Train, the ride still drew hundreds of riders and dignitaries to make the trip from South Bay to a daylong celebration in San Francisco. Volunteers from San Jose’s Sacred Heart Community Service collected canned food and children’s clothing before the train departs.

Nationwide, the federal holiday will be marked by volunteer work in celebration of the civil rights icon, who once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

On the Peninsula, community members and nonprofit leaders will come together for “A Day of Service,” an event featuring youth performances and speeches about what the dreams of Rev. King mean to them. The service runs from 11am to 2pm and takes place at Martin Luther King Plaza, 250 Hamilton Ave., in Palo Alto.

Earlier in the day, as in thousands of communities across the country, volunteers turned out at local schools and public spaces to clean and revitalize them in a show of public service.

As volunteers work to give back to their communities today, King’s daughter Bernice King asked the public to be mindful of her father’s philosophy of non-violence. She called for making today—the holiday marking his 85th birthday—a “no shots fired” day and asked churches to ring bells in support.

Keep up with the conversation on Twitter at #MLKday. Re-read King’s “I Have a Dream …” speech, his letter from Birmingham jail or some of his lesser-known speeches, missives and sermons.

To join the nation’s Day of Service, go to http://www.serve.gov or follow #MLKDayofService to find projects in your area.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

One Comment

  1. As the President of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley, I would like to thank the media and the community for supporting our Association and the Freedom Train we charter, sponsor, and pay for.

    Today was a huge victory for us because not only did the media step up to save the Freedom Train, more importantly, the community did! We had 1,031 riders on the Freedom Train today NOT the Caltrain! There is a huge difference between the two, and therein lies the problem with the media misinforming the public on the significance of the Freedom Train, and who sponsors it. 

    To reduce the Freedom Train to a Caltrain running from San Jose to San Francisco is a true injustice to the significance of WHY it is running, and what it represents. In the future, I hope both the Metro and other media outlets make more of an effort to properly educate the public on the Freedom Train. Please feel free to go to our website at: http://scvmlk.org/about-the-freedom-train/, to read about its history.

    I want to correct some misinformation out there by saying that the decrease in Freedom Train ticket sales has been a direct result of the economy, people losing their jobs/homes, the lack of media and the community’s education on the Freedom Train,  and not because of any political spat.

    Thanks to the media, community supporters of the Freedom Train today, and some of our long term donors, we are proud to announce that the Freedom Train, honoring the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will run again next year!

    It is vital that our Association receive media, donor, and community support to keep this vital piece of history running, so that we can continue to keep the beloved Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s life legend and legacy alive and well.

    Having said that, hopefully, next year we’ll see you all on the Freedom Train!