Written by Michelle Botello
The San Diego School District came together at Harbor Drive for the 40th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade. Judges attended and were there to select first, second, and third place for the best float. San Diego City College took second place last year and were enthused to win a place for 2020.
The president of San Diego City College, Ricky Shabazz said “ We’re here celebrating the great legacy of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a college and the president of San Diego City College, our entire team is here. “
In response to the SDCC theme education not incarceration, Shabazz replied, “When we look at the amount of money that the state spends to house someone in prison, compared to what they spend on education, there’s a great disparity and there’s a great opportunity.
We put the same amount of resources into community colleges that serve 100 percent of the people who apply and come, we all invest in the economic impact of our state, and so we know that we need to share more of the disparity and funding with the community because we believe that they would put more resources in their education versus prison.”
Duane Gardella, Scenic Designer and professor at San Diego City College, said “I designed the float for Martin Luther King parade along with the ideas they wanted to tell on the float which is ‘education not incarceration’.” Gardella mentioned that the Associated Student Government at City College came up with the theme.
The theme was deep and Gardella said, “I think that’s what we need to do. We need to educate more people, put our priorities on educating... and have a happier society.”
The float took three weeks to complete and Gardella has been doing it around six to seven years. “I enjoy the project. Right on the last day, before it’s due, it’s always stressful.”
Christian Sin, 25, project assistant, said “I work for the San Diego Community College District, but my main job is just to help out in theatre running shows.” The team today is constructing the float for the MLK parade for the next day.
Sin said, “A lot of today is just finalizing the set pieces like the books and the puppet, and then we’ll be mounting everything to the actual float today.” Sin said that some parts are recycled from last year, they use the same trailer, the puppet was made last year and that was a long process, and this year the puppet wouldn’t have legs. Last year the head was made of plaster and was so heavy that they couldn’t stand up the puppet of King. The puppet wasn't added on the float this year.
Sin said he gained most of his experience at City. He said, “A lot from Duane (Gardella) and I’ve taken almost all the classes he teaches. I did learn a lot from him.”
Gary Tallaksen, 62, currently retired, doing as much acting as he can wherever he can, said, “Today we’re helping construct the MLK parade float and putting it all together.” The theme this year makes Tallaksen think. He said, "You know, unfortunately we’ve got a lot of stuff going on that Dr. King tried to change many years ago, and it’s still going on.
And if we can bring this to people’s attention so that they can see that we’re all united in this, y’know, white, black, purple, green, whatever, just everybody come out and respect what the man did for our country.” City college has put effort into King’s movement. Talleksen said, “I think it’s awesome. I think City College has offered a variety of many classes, ways you can go down here...it’s a great little university.”
Mark Henry, 53, student at Arizona State University, said, “This is my alma mater. I graduated from here in 2018 so I found out about the preparations for the parade from Gary.” Henry recognizes MLK day as a time to speak up. He said, “Recognition is important.
I think there is too much about our history and our democracy that is kind of slowly getting forgotten by the wayside, and I think that it’s important along with MLK and all the people responsible for the freedoms we have today, it’s important that we recognize that and pass that information to our youth.”
Henry said that the float carries amazing representations of the past and the story of Dr. MLK’s experiences, as well as the importance of freedom, which is this years’s theme. "It goes back to what I said, the sacrifices we made to where we are and we need to honor and recognize that every chance we get.” Education not incarceration means a lot to Henry.
He said, “I think that we need to really look at that. I think the school to prison pipeline has been something that’s been practiced and ignored by society as a whole way too long. We really need to look at promoting education and not just sending troubled teens and so forth straight to prison.” He said we need to invest more money into education than prisons.
Lisa Kennedy, 56, retired postal worker currently wrote a play called ‘No Turning Back’ and is coming out with ‘Turning Back Again’ soon. Right now, Kennedy is living life in a second career as writer/producer/director/actor.
She said, “My most recent play is ‘No Turning Back’. It is a civil war era drama set in 1862. It’s a short traveling play. It is funny, entertaining, thought-provoking and it definitely leaves the audience wanting more.”
Kennedy said that MLK means to her, “MLK means everything to me. I would not be here and be the person that I am without him.” Something happened in Kennedy’s early life that caused her sadness. She said, “I was four years old when he died and it’s something I will always remember because I remember both my parents crying and when you see both your parents crying and you’re four years old that’s something that you don’t ever forget.”
The bell was an amazing creation and took third place in the competition. Andrei Lucas, 30, Dean of Automotive and Skill Technical Trade Program at San Diego Continuing Education has its own theme which is ‘Let Freedom Ring’.
Lucas said, “And so we created a Liberty Bell here and we have about a mile worth of copper wire that we put around a metal structure...and it rings.” He said the department started planning last year in June and instructor Mike Bradbury and Lucas were working on the bell at the moment. The students from the welding program at the school worked on this bell as a curriculum.
Erica Green, 62, social worker, “We just took our bikes, and we came last year, and we want to honor MLK.” The place was filled with floats and crowds and music and Green said, “I think it’s representing unity and I’m really for unity. We all trust in San Diego to unite as a community to help people reach their full potential.
I think it’s really important for students for early education. It might help them find what their mission is.” Tom Miller, 65, chemical dependency counselor at ToBeHumanCounselingService, said, “It’s a great day, people coming together celebrating MLK and he was about love and service and with those ideas in mind, you can’t go wrong.”
Student being a part of this celebration is a beautiful thing. Miller said, “It’s where it all starts, being young and molding ideas into the love and service.”