Wilma Johnson-Mitchell remembers seeing Martin Luther King Jr. for the first time on TV during the fight for school integration.
"The words just flowed out of his mouth," Johnson-Mitchell, 64, said. "I never heard anybody speak like that before."
Scores will celebrate the man whose 1968 "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech inspired many when Martin Luther King Jr. Day events begin at City Hall, 520 J. St, at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 21. The march and speeches that follow are organized, as they have been for many years, by Kenté Women's Club.
Johnson-Mitchell, a member of the club and a 1967 graduate of Dos Palos High, said the march is always a good way to remind children of King, who was instrumental in pushing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. She said his message is universal and relevant to this day and to the Westside.
"He represents all people, and in every area he has touched somebody's life," Johnson-Mitchell said.
After some secular speeches at City Hall, marchers will proceed to D Street's First Baptist Church to hear keynote speaker the Rev. Phil Jenkins.
Past celebrations of the orator of the 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech have included poems, songs, dances and a video of the speech on the National Mall.
Johnson-Mitchell said she hopes the march is a fitting tribute to the civil rights leader who marched on Washington, D.C., and later was assassinated after speaking on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn.
For more on the day's events, call Johnson-Mitchell at (209) 826-1854.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.