Chico celebrates 42nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration: Victory in unity


Community gathered in the BMU listening to a poetry reading at the MLK celebration. Photo taken Feb. 5th by Kaitlin Moore.

Community members gathered in the Bell Memorial Union on Sunday for the 42nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. The event, organized by the Chico MLK Unity Group, the Chico State Black Student Union, Associated Students and community members honored the message of victory in unity espoused by the late civil rights leader. 

The celebration featured musical and dance performances, speeches from community leaders, poetry and art activities as the public came together to celebrate the life and legacy of MLK and start off Black History Month.

Chico State’s Delta Sigma Theta, Pi Xi Chapter sorority and the fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, Kappa Psi Chapter — both historically Black organizations — were among the groups who performed dance routines. They paid tribute to Black artists and danced to several top hits including an audience favorite, Soulja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag,” and several top R&B songs. 

Other groups from Chico and the Sacramento area performed as well, including local band The Bella Locas, students from Chapman Elementary’s Los Tambores drum group and YGT youth dance troupe. The rally portion of the event featured a vibrant drum performance by Fenix Drum & Dance Company of Sacramento, and art activities were offered by the youth mentoring organization GAME AMP.

GAME AMP’s representative, Emmanuelle Sainte, shared with The Orion what this year’s Victory in Unity theme meant to her. 

“Well it means that we all have a vested interest in the world being healthy, and healing and getting better,” Sainte said. “Victory in Unity is us working together, and achieving those goals together.”

Fenix’s founder Olivia Yasmin James spoke on her opinion regarding the importance of events that celebrate MLK’s message of unity.

“I think it’s very important in our culture,” James said. “This is my first time being here, but in terms of bringing people together in unity, I’ve been to other events like that before and I’m happy to participate.”

The featured keynote speaker Hardy Brown, chairman of the Black Voice Foundation and a leader in conversations of historical empathy, spoke about the significance of understanding and honoring Black history. He also highlighted the inspiring stories of Black figures such as leader of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, scientist and agriculturalist, George Washington Carver, and other historical leaders in the Black community. 

Brown brought a historical collection of rare documents and artifacts to help people understand the institution of slavery and of civil rights in the U.S.. These included 19th century law codes regarding slavery and the penalties for those who aided enslaved people, segregated business signage and original newspaper clippings calling for the termination of Jim Crow laws. He emphasized people’s parts in recognizing the past and actively choosing to stand on the right side of history. 

“These are priceless artifacts that are here that represent the story of survival and resilience, and to have them out and about in a way the community can interact with is a bit nerve-wracking, but I’m very excited and happy for these to be here,” said Autumn Alaniz-Wiggins, the AS Director of Social Justice and Equity and one of the event organizers.

Towards the end of the event a student read Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This stirring rendition served as a powerful reminder of the struggles that continue to affect Black communities, and the work still needed to reach the goals of MLK.

Saly Boury, president of Chico State’s Black Student Union and one of the event organizers,  explained what this event meant to her and how she thinks it impacts other Black students. 

“Having this event and this space on campus to feel heard and feel seen and celebrate what it means to be Black is really special,” Boury said. “I think that MLK’s message does carry over because we’re here, we’re still doing this, he has a dream and we’re still living up to that dream and we’re gonna keep going.”

Kaitlin Moore can be reached at [email protected].