Several events throughout the community will take place this weekend commemorating the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Fresno State’s campus will be closed Monday in celebration of the national holiday.
Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor, a Fresno State professor emeritus of social work, and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Committee of Fresno will be hosting two events today: a garlanding ceremony at the Fresno County Courthouse Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. at the Fresno City College campus.
Kapoor, who received the Outstanding Service Award from the committee in 2009, has served on the committee since 1983 when it was founded by the city of Fresno.
Kapoor recalled marching alongside King in Washington over 50 years ago. Although he said he arrived in the country the day after King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, he remembered the opening headlines of the newspaper and felt the power of King’s message.
“Dr. King’s march and his speech is a historical speech, powerful and inspiring, for not only people in this country but outside as well,” Kapoor said. “He had a vision of promoting racial harmony globally and was a key prophet of promoting peace and respect for one another.”
Kapoor also spoke on the recent death of Lesly “Les” Kimber, a former Fresno City Council member and founder of the California Advocate, an African-American community publication in Fresno, who was also a key figure in the MLK Day celebrations citywide.
“He was so instrumental in starting the Dr. King celebration in Fresno. He was a journalist himself and a friend of mine, starting this very progressive newspaper that comes out of Fresno, across California, and throughout the country,” Kapoor said.
In 2010, Kimber started a community group called Citizens for Civility and Accountability in Media, calling for the popular station KMJ to allow for a wider range of opinions on the air. Kapoor said stations that offered extremely one-sided narratives had the potential to damage community voices.
“It was an effort to enlighten radio stations that they should be fair, give more time to other stations and other people to express their views,” Kapoor said. “We did have some protests, but later on in the end they did make some right decisions.”
Kimber is remembered as a strong activist for social equality, Kapoor said.
“We have a responsibility to enlighten the public with service, and particularly to eliminate hate content present,” Kapoor said. “It takes much more time and energy to create an atmosphere where people feel welcome and respected. That’s what Kimber and I believed in.”
Fresno State President Joseph Castro will speak Saturday morning at a community breakfast at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Building.
Kapoor said there is still progress to be made in continuing King’s words.
“I think each year we try to bring his message alive and keep the hope alive,” Kapoor said. Though there have been many steps of progress, there’s still a long way to go. We still have discrimination, we still have prejudice and animosity.”
Kapoor hopes to champion the diversity King stood for, a diversity, adding it is a fundamental part of Fresno State.
“That’s the beauty of this country, all the diversity that we have,” Kapoor said. “That is our greatest strength, and we should respect and capitalize on that. It will build our future, so we need to work very hard.”
For a full list of MLK weekend celebrations, visit the Fresno Martin Luther King Unity Committee facebook page.