The Coast News Group
Community volunteer Janet Bledsoe Lacy (right) receives the Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Award from Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood in 2008. This year’s nominees are Ray Clendening, Marcus Snead, and Max Disposti. Photo by Promise Yee

Martin Luther King Jr. celebration honors local civic leaders

OCEANSIDE — The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. will be celebrated by the city of Oceanside and the North San Diego County NAACP with a community prayer breakfast and awards ceremony Jan. 21 at the Junior Seau Community Center. 

“The expectation is rejuvenation of the tradition and all the things Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for being involved in rights for all,” Reginald Owens, North San Diego County NAACP press and publicity chair, said. “It’s like an inoculation for the next year to be more kind and understanding.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Award acknowledges outstanding community civic leaders.

Early recipients of the award include Oscar Culp, who won in 1990 for his leadership with the Men of Oceanside; Terry Johnson, who won in 1991 and later became an Oceanside councilman and mayor; Concha Hernandez Green and Connie Johnson, community leaders of the Eastside neighborhood, Partners for Healthy Neighborhoods and UCAN Eastside Organization who won in 1996; Gwen Sanders, a 2003 recipient and community volunteer, union activist and NAACP official; and James McCargo, one of the first African American sergeant majors in the United States Marine Corps, who won in 2005.

Recent recipients include Willie Little Sr., a labor activist and NAACP member, who was awarded in 2006; Janet Bledsoe Lacy, a community volunteer and NAACP member, who won in 2008; Kay Parker, a community advocate for fair housing who won in 2011; and Colleen O’Harra, a community activist who was awarded in 2012.

This year Ray Clendening, Marcus Snead and Max Disposti have been nominated to receive the award. Their civic achievements will be acknowledged at the ceremony.

Joan Parks, founder of the Community Prayer Breakfast, will also be honored.

While great strides in equal rights have been made, the NAACP points to data that shows gross socioeconomic disparities still exist. These include a disproportionately high dropout rate number for African American males, a growing number of African American male and female incarcerations, and a 20 percent unemployment rate within the African American community.

“We have much more to accomplish in our lifespan to make America the great place it can be — even greater than it is today,” Owens said.

The goal of the NAACP is to develop a corrective strategy that involves outreach and education.

“The focus is on education,” Shirley Johnson, North San Diego County NAACP president, said. “To go back to school, to stay in school, is always the focus.”

Owens added that registering to vote and exercising your voting right is also important to bring about needed changes in government decision making and funding.

The breakfast and awards ceremony will be held at 7 a.m. Jan. 21 at the Junior Seau Beach Community Center. Tickets for the event are available through the North San Diego County NAACP office located at 605 San Diego Street. Tickets will also be available on site the day of the event.