Antoine Hubbard Sr. has been speaking this week with area churches, schools and anyone else who might ring a bell in honor of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who 50 years ago this month led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
"We've come a long way, but we have such a long way still to go," The 56-year-old said. "Dr. Martin Luther King, along with Freedom Riders and civil right supporters and advocates, put their lives on the line so people today could be treated equally."
Hubbard, the Merced College Student Organization of Unified Leadership president, said he wants to get as many groups and individuals on board to celebrate the noon Aug. 28 anniversary of the speech.
On Aug. 28, 1963, more than 200,000 Americans marched on Washington, D.C., for a major political rally that became a key moment in the growing struggle for civil rights in the United States.
This month, Merced County residents from all backgrounds will come together to commemorate the historic march's 50th anniversary.
On Sunday, several churches will convene at 3 p.m. in Applegate Park, 1045 W. 25th, at the Merced Outdoor Amphitheater.
Tamara Cobb, an organizer of Church in the Park, remembers watching portions of the March on Washington on her parents' TV.
"We owe, in our country, a lot to this man," Cobb said. "Anytime that I can pay homage to this man, and honor this man, I try to do so."
The three-hour event will feature gospel singers, praise dancers and keynote speaker Napoleon Washington, the former president of Merced's NAACP chapter.
Cobb said churches from Merced, Atwater, Le Grand and Planada were invited. A number of nonprofits will be on hand in informational booths. The day's theme is "Advancing the Dream."
Bell-ringing plannedIn addition, to celebrate the anniversary, The King Center, an Atlanta-based library, plans a national bell-ringing. The King Center recommends ringing a bell, or playing the sound of a bell for no longer than 15 seconds.
The center has a few other recommendations, including having an American flag present and playing or reciting the "I Have a Dream Speech." The center stresses that the ceremony should be all-inclusive, and that arrangements should be made for people of any race, religion or culture.
The King Center is asking anyone planning to participate in a bell ringing to register at www.eventbrite.com/event/7705309789.
Civil rights remain an issue in the minds of many, Cobb said, pointing to the Supreme Court's decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act. King was instrumental in pushing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Cobb pointed to unequal pay for women and the February 2012 killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin as examples of unequal representation in the law.
"There are still things that can be done," Cobb said, "to make certain civil rights in our country is above board and guaranteed to everyone."
Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.