Within our first two weeks in Tucson two years ago, we attended the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Reid Park. I was glad to see a good turnout, considering the city is less than 3 percent African American. As I walked around the park, I saw lots of diversity, with African Americans, Mexicans and other ethnicities all sharing positive information about their community-based agencies. My family and I agreed that if this was how Tucson was on a regular basis, then Southern Arizona may not be too bad.
The following weeks and months didn't have that same glow. I could not get a job, even with 20 years in the field of human services and a master's degree. I'd speak to people and get nothing in return. Where was all the diversity and love, like at Reid Park?
It's taken 40 years for some Americans to get the clue that we're all in this thing together, for better or worse. The year 2008 made that clear to many. Not only did thousands lose jobs; they lost homes for which they'd worked hard. Too many of us had to decide between getting gas at the pump and getting everything we needed at the grocery store.
However, forever the optimist, I'm moved to the highest level of believing that anything is possible. I feel it in my heart, and for the last two months, I've even felt it at the gas pump: Change is in the air. The energy is powerful; you can see it, smell it and feel it while talking with others. In this spirit, all of Tucson needs to be reminded of two historic events taking place so that we all can be part of the change.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 19, all are welcome to join the Freedom Festival and MLK March, which starts at the UA in the center of campus near Old Main. People gather between 7 and 7:30 a.m. to mix, mingle and enjoy light fare and music; speeches begin at 8 a.m.
At 8:30 a.m., following the speeches, marchers head over to Reid Park for a day of inspiration, entertainment, good food and information from local agencies on an array of topics. Join the family affair; there is no age requirement, and this is an opportunity to meet new people and reunite with some familiar faces, all while really thinking about the freedoms we have and looking at how we can make the world a better place, both individually and collectively.
Clarence Boykins, president of the Tucson Black Chamber of Commerce, describes what this year's events mean to him: "What these two historical days should mean to the community, especially the African-American community, is that this is an ending of a journey from the 'I Have a Dream' speech to the beginning of a new journey that says, 'Yes, I can'."
The other historic event: The inauguration of President Barack Obama.
The Tucson community is invited to an Inaugural Day Brunch, hosted by Tucson Black Chamber of Commerce. On Tuesday, Jan. 20, you're invited to come out to the Northwest Neighborhood Center, at 2160 N. Sixth Ave., at Grant Road. For $20, you get a home-style breakfast consisting of grits, bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, jelly, coffee and tea. Breakfast is served from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
At 10 a.m., there will be big-screen televisions set up so that you can enjoy the inauguration speeches in style; so what if you were unable to secure a ticket for a seat in Washington, D.C.? Brunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and will consist of barbecued ribs, fried chicken, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, potato salad, yams, dessert and a beverage. You may pay in advance while reserving your ticket through Friday, Jan. 16, by calling the chamber at 623-0099.