By Mark Andrew Boyer
Bay Area residents took the day off work to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, but for many that didn’t mean staying home and sleeping in. In Richmond, volunteers got their hands dirty planting trees, building garden beds and spreading mulch at the Richmond Greenway park. And in San Francisco, hundreds of people from a wide range of religious and social justice organizations honored King’s legacy with a festival at Yerba Buena Gardens.
Dr. King called on people to participate in community service projects, and Bay Area residents echoed that sentiment. AmeriCorps member Ann Fernandez, from San Diego, came to Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco to spread the word about community action. “AmeriCorps is a program of service, so we thought this would be a good way to promote service within the community,” she said.
Monday marked the 30th annual run of the “Freedom Train,” which traveled from San Jose to San Francisco to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. With sagging early ticket sales, organizers worried that this year would be the train’s last run. But strong Monday morning sales helped fill the train.
After the Freedom Train pulled into the 4th Street Caltrain station, riders marched along a 1.5-mile route, crossing the Lefty O’Doul Bridge. The march culminated at Yerba Buena Gardens, where faith and political leaders remembered Dr. King. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi briefly addressed the crowd at Yerba Buena Gardens and urged people to continue the fight for equality. “It’s not just enough for us to talk about Dr. King,” she said. “The legacy that he left us is to have the courage to fight for what he stood for.”
In Richmond, dozens of volunteers headed to Richmond Greenway — a former railroad property that has been transformed into a linear park — to help on landscaping and beautification projects. “We want to make the community better for the kids,” said Richmond Resident Stacey Marshall as he took a break from digging a strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. “Everybody has got to try to better their community sometimes,” he said. “I don’t mind volunteering.”