HomeCity NewsPeace Walk Summons Dr. King’s Spirit

Peace Walk Summons Dr. King’s Spirit

First published in the May 28 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

Once upon a time, burning crosses would light the night sky in Glendale, where people in white hoods and hate ran rampant — a city that hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan once called home.
As the community united to march on Sunday at the second annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk, the values and spirit emanating from the crowd proved that today’s Glendale, decades later, is far from the “Sundown Town” it used to be — when housing covenants prevented minorities from homeownership and non-white workers risked their safety by remaining after work hours. However, organizers of the march urge that there’s still work to be done to make the city — which in 2020 formally apologized for its racist past — a place where all people feel welcome.
With this year’s theme, “Everyone Belongs,” the Rev. Todd Leonard of Glendale City Church said coming together for a common goal keeps Martin Luther King Jr.’s spirit alive through love and kindness, and that it was evident in the individuals that came out to support the Peace Walk.
This walk is Leonard’s vision for the city of Glendale, which a committee helped to make a reality.
“I saw people from different religions laughing together, united by the great commonalities of their faiths, rather than divided by their differences,” Leonard said. “There were people who passionately believe that our city should reconsider how it allocates its law enforcement budget, who were also incredibly grateful to have police officers escorting them on the walk.
“What shines out when we’re all clustered together on the Peace Walk is that we are one big, glorious mess of humanity,” he added. “And we’re more beautiful together than if we were divided into separate groups based on ideology, race, orientation or economic class. I would hope our Peace Walk was something that Dr. King would find beautiful and hopeful.”
The event sponsors included Glendale City Church, Faith In Action, Civic Sundays, GlendaleOUT, Black In Glendale, Zonta Club of Burbank, Verdugo Community Church, First Baptist Church Glendale, Burbank for Armenia, Glendale Community College, Verdugo Community Church, Temple Sinai of Glendale, Glendale Environmental Coalition, Glendale High School Cheer, Glendale Tenants Union, YWCA of Glendale and Pasadena and Adventist Health Glendale.

The Rev. Todd Leonard of Glendale City Church speaks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk prior to the march.

“We are here today to support and encourage an inclusive Glendale, and that means giving all of our residents a sense of belonging,” said Zack Gershen of Temple Sinai of Glendale. “We want to create a community based on our shared values of inclusiveness and social and racial harmony among all groups, because Glendale has not had the best history of that.”
The Rev. Sherri James, who lives in Glendale and leads UP Church in Inglewood, said that every individual has an essential role to play in the establishment of world peace. She preached that everyone needs to reject the idea that one person’s contributions is insignificant and unable to produce a difference.
“Every idea of God needs a mind to express through,” said James, who belongs to the Glendale Religious Leaders Association and Black In Glendale. “Dr. King stood for peace and love of all people. So powerful was his commitment to the idea that we are gathered here together today in his name and in celebration and recognition of the work that he did.”
She said the truest test of confidence is what we do under pressure. In the face of challenges, she encouraged the group to be a champion of peace by refusing to give up.
“To be a peacemaker is to be a visionary,” James said. “Ideas take time to work themselves out in consciousness. No feat is accomplished overnight. Dr. King said: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ The truth is that you have to become the peacemakers you were called to be. Dr. King moved mountains, because the conviction for peace was so deeply rooted in his heart that today none of us even know him and here we are.”
Leonard said he’s proud to see the Peace Walk continue, and hopes it will become a tradition in the Jewel City.
“The fact that we still had a strong showing two years later at the Peace Walk tells me that the peacemaking and justice-bringing spirit is still hard at work in the hearts of Glendale’s residents,” he said.
The next Peace Walk is scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16. This week’s event was initially scheduled for that holiday this year, but postponed because of the COVID-19 case surge in the winter. Rescheduling it near May 25 — the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers — was deliberate.
“That event was a watershed moment in Glendale, just as it was across the country,” Leonard said. “Our city has a shadow history of racism and antisemitism still lingering over us, affecting every sector of our city. We saw Glendale’s story in Minneapolis and it got us out of our seats, figuratively and literally, to begin working actively for a more just and equitable community.”

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