First published in the Jan. 21 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
By Kennedy Zak
Despite a gloomy forecast, blue skies prevailed on Monday for the third annual Glendale Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk where community members gathered to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of King on the national holiday.
More than 500 people attended the event, bringing Glendale residents, local legislators and supporters together for the nearly one-mile peace walk in remembrance of King.
The event began at 10 a.m., when attendees gathered in front of the First Baptist Church of Glendale. Soon after, a celebration rally began at the church with a speech from U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff and music performances.
The walk began at 11:30 a.m. and the hundreds of attendees followed the route, which looped through downtown and ended back at First Baptist Church for festival-like activities.
With new additions to the community event such as food trucks, festival booths and Schiff as the keynote speaker, the turnout was double that of the previous year, organizer Rev. Todd Leonard of Glendale City Church said.
“Today, as we walk on the street, we commit to fighting for one another, to protecting one another, to loving one another, as we love ourselves,” Schiff said. “Let’s reflect on the ways we can do even more to stand up to injustice. … Let us hold up Dr. King’s words in our hearts: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’”
Schiff went on to discuss the rise of hate crimes in Los Angeles, noting that this past year saw the highest surge in hate crimes in nearly two decades. Leonard spoke to the positive impact collaborative events such as this Peace Walk can have on bringing communities together amid polarizing times.
“It’s easy, even in our community, to just be stuck in our own little micro communities where we’re all alike or share similar backgrounds or similar beliefs or policies and politics,” Leonard said. “And something like this all of a sudden shows you the diversity of the city… In this moment we’re seeing all this cross intersectionality taking place. It’s a symbol of what needs to happen.”
In light of Glendale’s history as a “sundown town,” community members like Mona Field find comfort in the city’s trajectory toward positive change. The term “sundown town” refers to local zoning and other municipal laws that exclude people of color, particularly Black people, from living within the city’s borders. In 2020, Glendale officials passed a resolution that recognized and apologized for the city’s history of prejudice that earned it the “sundown town” label.
“Just to see that there’s now a whole lot of people in Glendale who believe in racial justice and social justice is very reassuring because when I started working in Glendale in 1983, it was a very different place,” said Field, who serves as the president of the League of Women Voters of Greater Los Angeles. “[Glendale] is better now. It’s more diverse and there’s more of this social awareness.”
In addition to a number of impressive speakers, the event also featured musicians such as rapper Michael Jelks, known as “Mikol.” He sings about the struggles he faced in the foster care system and the importance of creating his own destiny.
“I feel like Dr. King, y’all I got a dream. Don’t let them ever take your purpose y’all, you gotta dream. Are we too blind to see? Do we try to see? If you never take a chance you’ll never catch what’s behind the scenes,” Mikol rapped.
The Peace Walk included festival booths from organizations such as TechGYRLS, Temple Sinai of Glendale, California State Library and more. Coinciding with King’s dedication to peace and equality, these booths emphasized being an ally, the importance of inclusion and love to all.
Partners of the Peace Walk included Adventist Health Glendale, Glendale City Church of Seventh-Day Adventists, First Baptist Church of Glendale, YWCA of Glendale, Temple Sinai of Glendale, Glendale First United Methodist Church, USC Verdugo Hill Hospital, Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, Verdugo Community Church, YMCA of Glendale, Glendale Unified School District, Glendale Teachers Association, glendaleOut, GALAS LGBTQ+ Armenian Society, Glendale Library Arts & Culture, Civic Sundays, GTU and Glendale Environmental Coalition.
United together across various racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds, Glendale residents of all ages exhibited their commitment to King’s values and legacy on Monday.
“Rev. Dr. King taught us that we can transform hatred and prejudice. We can stand up to intolerance and bigotry,” said Rick Schechter, Rabbi at Temple Sinai of Glendale. “He taught us we can offer society a vision of our shared humanity, instead of the myopic view of one’s differences. It’s a vision of love. It’s a vision of kindness and cooperation.”