For hundreds in Bakersfield, Monday began with prayer, music and coming together as a community regardless of individual race or faith.
Wesley Crawford Sr. said that's the proper way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Crawford helped organize the Annual MLK Breakfast, which was to be followed by a parade Monday evening ending at Mount Zion Church on California Avenue.
Crawford said the civil rights leader's legacy is greater than any individual person because those who joined his cause were so diverse.
"All races, creeds and religious backgrounds were part of that struggle," Crawford said.
Much diversity was on display at the breakfast at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center on Owens Street, where those in attendance included Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green, Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson, Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, Roy Ashburn and community activist Marvin Dean.
A large group of teens was also on hand, some of whom woke up early and helped clean vacant lots and paint over graffiti. Others escorted people to their tables at the community center and helped prepare for the event.
Alana Alahakam, 16, said she thinks of MLK Day as a day of improvement, a day for people from all parts of the community to come together and have a good time.
Alahakam said she's sometimes asked what her ethnic background is. That question bothers her, she said, because a person's background should have no bearing on how someone views them.
"It really doesn't matter," she said.
Imani Gillen, 16, and her 14-year-old sister, Amari, both helped out at the center Monday morning. Imani said she's hopeful race relations will continue to improve over the years.
Amari said she woke up excited about Monday and the MLK-related events.
"Really and truly I believe today is about Martin Luther King and how he spoke his mind and changed the world," she said.
Marissa Krolnik, 19, has been helping at the annual breakfast for the past six years. She drove from San Diego to take part in Monday's event. She said it's amazing what people are capable of doing after bonding at these types of events.
"It's a great time to get together and see what's going on in the community," Krolnik said.
Loretta Chappel, who sang following breakfast, may have said it best when talking about how it doesn't matter where everyone in attendance Monday comes from; all that matters is that the crowd was brought together through God.
"If you come from the White House, the black house, the poorhouse, the outhouse, the crackhouse, it don't matter," she said.