Human Race the Winner on MLK Day

Antioch’s third annual celebration of Martin Luther King Day, held this year at the Deer Valley High School auditorium, gave pause for stock-taking Antioch’s report card of tolerance and embraced diversity.  If you are swayed by TV and San Francisco print dailies, aggressive outsider advocacy groups, and a cluster of criminally-investigated citizens turned civil litigants, Antioch could appear dismally failing. It’s habitually smeared as a bastion of bigotry.

The proof, though, is in the pudding. We might start by asking, who do the good citizens of Antioch choose to lead them?  Our former Mayor, Mary Rocha, is Latino, as were council members Manny Soliz and Ralph Hernandez.  Reggie Moore, who recently lost a reelection bid, was defeated by a fellow African-American, top vote getter Wade Harper.  On the school board side of the ledger, Wade Harper moved on and African American Teri Lynn Shaw was defeated.  Tellingly, our two comprehensive high schools have Latino Louie Rocha and African American Clarence Isadore at the helm.  Our former A.U.S.D. Superintendent, Deborah Sims, is African American.  Two recent Antioch Citizens of the Year, Gary Gilbert and Iris Archuleta are African American. My wife, Cynthia., a Filipino-American, won 2/3 of the Antioch vote on her way to County Board Trusteeship. Seems, then,  the bigot designation simply doesn’t reconcile with Antioch’s  track record.

As for complaints of police targeting renters, I am not an expert on housing issues but find it interesting that two of the three filed cases have already been dismissed as spurious. Frankly,  I always felt that Section 8 was grossly mismanaged and in need of serious revamping. I, in fact, have several hair-raising examples of Section 8 behavior run amuk in my own neighborhood, one home with over 50 police calls.  It’s sad that a cry for agency oversight and neighborly accountability gets confused, then, with prejudice. The city argues, rightfully I think, that this is a behavior generated issue. If there is systemic Intolerance in Antioch it is intolerance not of groups but of  activity that abuses law and universal decorum. 

In the end, though, I believe that Antioch’s neighborhood angst goes beyond Section 8 and, in fact, lies in the wholesale buying and selling of Antioch by investor groups. Truth be, outsiders are gobbling up homes by the score. Where, we should fear, is the vested interest of these conglomorates in our city’s welfare and in the respectful behavior of all their tenants?

All this said, Martin Luther King Day is a heaven-sent occasion to remind us that there is decided room in this nation and in this city for greater love, tolerance and non-violence.The recent events in Tucson illustrated that. Yes,  Antioch, too, has its’ haters. Extremists aside, even the most enlightened amongst us are, to various degrees, victims of past conditioning. Universally, we are an admixture of light and shadow, with often untold recesses of bias. Heaven on earth has, after all, not yet arrived; the human race is still flawed.

Nationally, and locally, we have come a long ways, though.  Baseball was integrated in 1947, the military in 1948, schools in 1954 and 1959 landmark decisions, voting in 1964. Yet, we are still on a journey to achieve Mr. King’s dream of a world of universal brotherhood. We still strive to be unfailingly judged not by the color of our skins but by the content of our character.

Kudos, then, to those who made this worthy and inspiring celebration possible; Reggie Moore for pioneering Antioch’s participation; the program partnership of the City of Antioch; Antioch Unified School District, CCC Supervisor Federal Glover, Arts and Cultural Foundation of Antioch, Parents Connected, Digital Services and Dow Great Western Federal Credit Union; Mistress of Ceremonies Chandra Wallace and Darice Ingram; Pastors Kirkland Smith for the Invocation and Frederick Taylor for the Benediction; Keith Archuleta and Wade Harper for stirring special presentations; Mayor Jim Davis for acknowledgments; Diane Gibson-Gray for special recognitions; Dr. Donald Gill for scholarship presentation; entertainers Divine Voices, DVHS Show Choir, Cayson Renshaw, Naja Philipps, Kelhani Ross, Marshae Collins, Devonaire Bryant, Kevyn Butler and Brooke Sheffield; and to essay winners Brittany Bandy and Corrina Seeley.

On this day, in the transcendent spirit of Martin Luther King, we in Antioch celebrated one race: the human race!

Walter Ruehlig

One Comment to “Human Race the Winner on MLK Day”

  1. Allen Payton says:

    Thank you, Walter. Nice write-up. I was sick in bed and unable to attend.

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