Three local teachers, a nonprofit and museum curator were honored Monday for continuing the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Carolyn Hoskins, founder of the Domini Hoskins Black History Museum and Learning Center, was made honorary chairperson of the 21st annual celebration of King’s birthday in San Mateo, and Samaritan House, which provides services to low-income and homeless people, was named honorary group.

The Dorothy Boyajian award was given to Sequoia High School teacher Alanna Ojeda, Brewer Island Elementary’s Melissa Pedro and Serena Arge, a teacher at Mills High School. 

“These teachers inspire students in the areas of justice, understanding, civic engagement, diversity awareness and foster a commitment to community building,” said emcee Maya Perkins, adding that the award is named after a longtime San Mateo County teacher who embodied those qualities.

Pedro has created a classroom environment that values and respects diversity and difference; Ojeda’s curriculum reflects her passion for equality, justice awareness and diversity; and Arge spearheaded the school’s first annual united against hate week, in which she challenged students and staff to reflect on how film media and digital arts promote social justice and fight hateful messages, Perkins said. 

“I strive to teach my students to think critically about the messages we’ve been taught about power and privilege, who has it, why they have it and what aspects of our current system make it so,” Ojeda said. “I teach these concepts not because they’re state mandated or they’ll be on some standardized test. I teach these concepts because we don’t have time to spare.”

Hoskins in her speech said there needs to be a greater emphasis on African American history in the schools. 

Marie Davis

Marie Davis leads the group in the singing of ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing.’

“Why is it that for only one month in February we talk about African Americans because there is not one subject that we do not excel in,” she said to loud applause.

Hoskins’ extensive collection of African American art, memorabilia and artifacts has been on view at numerous venues on the Peninsula, including the annual county fair, over the years. 

“It’s not just black history, it’s American history,” she said, adding that she’s still searching for a permanent home for the museum. “We’ll keep kicking and fighting to keep our voices heard.”

Bart Charlow, executive director of Samaritan House, reminded the crowd that King identified racism as well as militarism and poverty as the three biggest evils in the world.

“If you think about all the strides we’ve made and all the things we’ve done to combat racism — we haven’t done so well on militarism — but the one that is still keeping people down and has always worked hand in hand with racism is poverty,” he said. “Dr. King said there is nothing new about poverty. What’s new, however, is now we have the resources to get rid of it. He said that 50 years ago and we’re still not rid of it.

We’ve got the resources,” Charlow continued. “But the real resource, the one that counts most of all, is the one you represent here today and that’s the will to make the change to try to lift our neighbors out of the state they have no moral reason to be in. That’s the key. It’s our work.”

The event ended with a group singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the black national anthem, before those in attendance boarded the “Celebration Train” to the San Francisco Martin Luther King Jr. Day March and Celebration.

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