By Maricela Lechuga
In observation of Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, members of the Santa Cruz community decided to take the day “on” instead of “off.” They celebrated Dr. King’s legacy with the second annual University Brothers/Sisters Dr. King Youth Classic organized by the UC Santa Cruz African American Resource & Cultural Center (AARCC).
The event took place at the Civic Auditorium where middle school students from Watsonville, Santa Cruz and Modesto all played in a basketball tournament. For Sister Paula Livers-Powell, the founding Dean/Director of the AARCC Youth Classics, the ultimate goal was to “uplift Dr. Kings legacy of helping others.” She also said that when it comes to both the day and the event, “it’s about love.”
Shonte Reeves, fourth-year UCSC student and lead intern at the AARCC said that the event was meant to change the way people celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “It is the only Black holiday out of the year, so we should be strengthening our community rather than staying home and watching T.V.,” Reeves said. “[This event is to] show kids that we care about them and to promote higher education at a young age in order to increase the retention rate.”
Duane Garner, program coordinator of the AARCC and the “coach” for the basketball tournament agreed with Reeves on the ability of the event to make an impact on the community’s children, especially in the positive bonds they build with the college participants. “[The purpose is to] serve the youth and bring them in connection with UCSC students to form mentorships and to let them know that college is something that they can do,” said Garner.
In light of celebrating Dr. King’s legacy, the event promoted participation and retention among African Americans in higher education in regards to the currently high African American drop out rate. Organizers hoped to plant the seed of education in the sharp young minds of middle school kids, as well as the African American community at large.
In addition to these objectives, the event fundraised money to help the Recovery School District of New Orleans, which is demographically composed of about 90 percent African American students according to District Administration magazine.
The AARCC hopes for the celebration to grow in upcoming years through increasing attendance and by incorporating different sports and activities for the community.