Hundreds of people came out Monday morning despite threats of storms to attend the 28th annual MLK Walk-A-Thon in Riverside.

“Given the conditions, we probably have somewhere between 500 and 600 people is what I’m thinking,” Robert Earl Bogan, president of the Riverside African American Historical Society, said. “And to me, that’s an excellent turnout for an event like this happening in this type of weather, which we’re in Southern California, you know, we kind of adapt differently when it comes to weather like this.”

But despite the cold and drizzly weather that welcomed walkers as they arrived at the Stratton Community Center in Bordwell Park, storms forecast for the morning never materialized. And by the time walkers arrived at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in downtown Riverside, they were greeted with blue skies and uplifting music by the Riverside Resistance Revival Chorus.

A member of the Riverside Resistance Revival Chorus leads the choir in song. (Alicia Ramirez/TN News)
A walker takes a photo of the Riverside Resistance Revival Chorus as they perform. (Alicia Ramirez/TN News)

“We believe racial justice is important for all people of all walks of life, and I can tell you that I used to think that the Martin Luther King Jr. walk was not for me, it was for other people,” Kris Lovekin, one of the group’s organizers, said. “And great, I was glad they were walking, but it was only about five years ago that I realized that this walk was a community walk, and I went and participated, and it was such a good event, and I got to feel part of this event. And so I’ve come every year since then, and the chorus has sung at several of them.”

Walkers gather around the statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in downtown Riverside. (Alicia Ramirez/TN News)

Among those who participated in the walk were members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. from University of California, Riverside, California State University, San Bernardino, California Baptist University and University of Redlands.

“Honestly, this is what we do, we give back to the community and we do this a lot,” Fazein Kennon, member of Omega Psi Phi, Sigma Eta chapter, said. “This was just another opportunity for us to do it, and we were glad to come out.”
Members of Omega Psi Phi perform in front of the statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in downtown Riverside. (Alicia Ramirez/TN News)

The walk-a-thon finished at the Riverside Main Library breezeway, across from the new Civil Rights Institute, where area politicians spoke about the importance of commemorating the day and working toward realizing King’s dream.

“It’s important that we don’t just highlight the things that make us feel good, but that we talk about the things that make us feel uncomfortable, and that we have the hard conversations so that we can actually move toward growth and change, and that is why I’m here today and that is why I’m proud to represent and be in the city of Riverside with all of you,” Ward 2 Councilmember Clarissa Cervantes said. “So continue to raise your voices and know that you make a difference every day when you show up in our community and in your city.”

As the sun shined high in the sky and youth musicians from the Crescendo Conservatory of the Arts played Grammy- and Oscar-winning song, “Glory,” by Common and John Legend, those in the breezeway gathered to watch and cheer them on.
Youth musicians from the Crescendo Conservatory of the Arts perform the song “Glory” by Common and John Legend. (Alicia Ramirez/TN News)

“We have essentially what Jesse Jackson would call the Rainbow Coalition in effect here in Riverside, and it’s a beautiful thing,” Dr. Tiffanie Tate, one of many Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. members in attendance, said. “And you don’t see anyone trying to essentially hog the limelight, and I think that’s important because there’s no me, it’s all about we, and I think if we get back to that, we’ll be better Americans.”

Tate’s refrain was one shared throughout the event by community members, local politicians and even Bogan.

“This is about one people, one community, one world,” he said. “And that is Dr. King’s message.”

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.