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Martin Luther King Jr. event draws large crowd and honors local students – Chico Enterprise-Record

Isaac Brundage, vice president for Student Affairs at Chico State, addresses the crowd at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, Scholarship and Technology Awards Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 at the Southside Oroville Community Center in Oroville, California. (Jennie Blevins/Enterprise-Record)

OROVILLE — The life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. was celebrated Monday at an awards ceremony at the Southside Oroville Community Center.

Over 100 participants enjoyed a pancake breakfast catered by Garibaldi’s Catering prior to the jam packed program. The Martin Luther King Jr.  breakfast, scholarship and technology started with a welcome by Ruby Thomas and then an invocation by Pastor Billy Speer.

Dominique Soares from the Chico State Black Student Union then recited the Negro national anthem.

“We want to bring unity between Chico State and the community,” said Soares in her speech. “We celebrate Black history month. I despise exclusion.”

Local pastor Kevin Thompson then jogged up to the podium.

“I am thankful for every one of you,” Thompson said while giving acknowledgments.

Joshua Edwards then gave a speech entitled “What is Your Life’s Blueprint?”

“Be involved with your community,” Edwards said. “Build baby build, don’t burn baby burn. We must keep going. If you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means keep going,” Edwards said.

Las Plumas High School student Shaleen Torres sang some songs. The Diverse dancers performed as well as the dance club from Oroville High School and the AB Dance Academy Dancing Princesses. The princesses were clad in exotic clothing and smiled their way through an elaborate performance.

Isaac Brundage, the vice president for student affairs at Chico State, was honored as the keynote speaker.

“If you had the opportunity to write a letter to Dr. King, what would you say?” Brundage asked.

He said in middle school he understood and learned what racism was. He got straight As in school and loved math. His school in Florida had a ceremony for the top two students in the school. He said he was not invited and didn’t receive an award. He cried like a baby after not getting recognized for anything.

One of his teachers gave him a small trophy for his work in algebra with the word “algebra” spelled wrong.

“I keep that trophy to remind myself I have to work harder than anyone else and prove myself,” Brundage said.

Brundage came out in 2020, which he said was the hardest thing he ever had to do was come out.

“It was a turning point,” he said. “Love who you love is because life is not a guarantee. What is your story and what would your letter mean to MLK?”

Dante Jones attended the event.

“Today is important for me as a Black man and as a father. The speaker hit on Martin Luther King’s words which ring true today,” Jones said.

Lisa Torres, the mother of singer Shaleen Torres, was proud of the five students who won awards.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn about the history of Martin Luther King Jr. It’s an important scholarship that really sets a stage for students to apply for college. It helps to get them in the door,” Lisa Torres said. She said her daughter does a lot of good work in the community such as helping the homeless..

Lisa Torres is a facility administrator at the Southside Oroville Community Center.

“The biggest goal is to help one another,” she said.

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