By Antonio Ray Harvey
SACRAMENTO — The California Legislative Black Caucus honored the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at a breakfast celebration Jan. 11 at the Grand Ballroom of the Town and Country Event Center.
The annual event was attended by about 200 people, including members of the Legislature from diverse backgrounds, community leaders and staffers from the State Capitol.
“It was an honor to host this year’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast,” caucus Chair Assemblywoman Lori A. Wilson, D-Suisun City, posted Jan. 11 on the social media platform X. “The California Legislative Black Caucus put on another lively event with great discussion on ways we can honor Dr. King’s legacy and uplift all Californians.”
At the breakfast, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, a member of the caucus, served as the master of ceremonies.
Caucusmembers Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, provided the invocation and Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, led the pledge of allegiance. State Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Inglewood, vice chair of the caucus, shared a message from caucus members.
Bradford revealed a little unknown fact about King’s name. He was born Michael King Jr., on Jan. 15, 1929. In 1934, his father, a pastor, traveled to Germany where he was inspired by Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther, Bradford said.
“As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son,” Bradford said.
To the delight of the audience at the event, sponsored by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, vocalist Nia Moore-Weathers performed a powerful rendition of the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a hymn written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson in 1900.
Wilson held a 30-minute fireside chat with guest speaker Kwame Anku about King’s life, achievements and vision, and the importance of building wealth in Black families and communities.
Anku is the founding managing partner and chief investment officer of Black Star Fund, an early-stage venture capital fund. He got the idea to start the fund on the urging of Prince, the singer, songwriter, multi-music instrumentalist who died in 2016.
Anku was named the 2022 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and was also among 21 recipients of the Aspen Ascent Fellowship awarded by the Aspen Institute. He said King’s famous 1963 address at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the “I Have a Dream speech,” could have been more aptly titled “America, It’s Time to Look in the Mirror” reflecting its core messages of accountability and denied justice.
“We’re telling ourselves how great we are but we’re not living up to the promise that we’ve made to ourselves because that’s the bedrock of what we do when he said we have come here today to cash the check,” Anku told Wilson. “So, we’ve come to cash the check because this check guarantees us the riches of freedom and the security of justice. So now we’re not just cashing that check. Now, we are writing those checks.”
This year marks the 57th anniversary of the California Legislative Black Caucus. For nearly six decades, the caucus has been a key advocate for issues such as fair housing and the prevention of homelessness.
Historically, the coalition of Black lawmakers has actively resisted redlining in banking and insurance in California, and fought against apartheid in South Africa, among other issues.
The caucus plans to continue King’s legacy by developing legislation around its current priorities, which include pursuing reparations for eligible Black Californians, criminal justice reform, environmental justice, and helping to ensure greater access to education and enterprise for African Americans.
During the 2024 legislative session, the caucus hopes to secure funding for critical programs and organizations working to enhance the lives of Black Californians.
Antonio Ray Harvey is a reporter for California Black Media.