By Christina Smith
Staff Writer

Families, performance teams, and community organizations came together to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the community park named in the civil rights leader’s honor as a part of the 4th Annual Martin Luther King Celebration and Sportsfest. The celebration, sponsored by the MLK Recreation Council and District 4 Councilwoman, Myrtle Cole, featured live musical and dance performances, dozens of informational booths, health screenings, a youth basketball tournament, and appearances from Councilwoman Myrtle Cole and California Assemblywomen Shirley Weber.

Shaun Manning, one of the organizers of the event, said the recreation center started having the festival four years ago because there were parades and celebrations in other parts of the city, but nothing for the community that is home to the park and recreation center that bears the activist’s name. Manning helped put together the event so young people in the community could start learning and celebrating their history at an early age.

“We want them to know what their true history is so they can identify who they are and have their own self-identity and self-esteem, and be able to know that we are just as powerful as any other culture, or race, or nation,” Manning said.

The MLK Celebration and Sportsfest is a multicultural event, reflected by the presence and participation of families of all races and backgrounds. There were students from Morse High School, Lincoln High School, Hoover High School and a host of other high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools represented.

Manning hopes that allowing young people to interact and with each other now will prevent conflict and violence in the future. It is his hope that kids build bonds and friendships while competing in the basketball tournament, or getting their faces painted, or watching each other perform, and that those bonds will help them to always act peacefully with each other.
“We all have to share this community and we all have the same needs and wants, and we have to find ways to merge that to be successful as a community,” Manning said.

As far as violence at the event goes, so far, so good. Manning is proud of the fact that they have been able to hold the celebration for the non-violence activist without any conflict.

“This is the fourth year, it’s been running smoothly, there’s been no violence…everyone has had a good time and we’ve had no problems at all,” Manning said.

Everyone is welcome to become involved with the MLK Celebration and Sportsfest or any event at the MLK Recreation Center. MLK Recreation Council meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month. For more information on the MLK Recreation Center, visit

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