In Photo: Valarie Scruggs and Pleshette Robertson with the Sac Cultural Hub Media Foundation and Wendy Petko, Executive Director of Center for Community Health and Well-Being, Inc.

The speeches, sermons, and acts of Martin Luther King, Jr. moved us and changed the lives of Americans across ages, cultures, faiths, and gender 50 years ago. Listening to his speeches played by a bicyclist through a home made sound system had MLK365 2014 participants bonding with the past while the young high school drummers, cheer leaders and banners had them focused on the application of the “I have a dream” principles in our lives today. Bystanders came from their homes and lined the streets with support for the huge group of marchers. One participant commented, “It was nice to be on the walk with so many different races, feeling solidarity with people you never met but were there for the same purpose.”

The MLK365 Celebration in Sacramento included the March for the Dream, a six mile walk from Oak Park to the Sacramento Convention Center, and ended in a Diversity Expo. The crowd was energized as they sang, danced, and talked about the enduring legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., their lives, and their hopes for the future. The presentations of the dance teams, dragon dancers, Miss Black Teen and Miss Asian Teen gave dramatic visuals to the multi-cultural celebration. Yet, an overwhelming number of the nearly 30,000 participants were African American. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day remains one of the largest African American celebrations in the country. It is one of the prime times when African Americans come out in force and are highly visible rather than diffused within the larger community. Advocacy and community service are high on the list of priorities for African Americans as community leaders and organizations look to have the community address issues related to employment, education, and health.

March and Get Covered! was the motto supported by the 8 Covered California education organizations, 2 insurance agents, and 2 health plans (Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield) present at the Diversity Expo. The Covered California education efforts were led by the California Black Health Network and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and supported by 1Solution, Center for Community Health and Well-Being, Inc., Center of Praise Ministries, Sac Cultural Hub Media Foundation, and Sacramento Covered resulting in nearly 100 appointments being made with participants to complete their Covered California health insurance applications. Covered California educators provided more than 1,500 with direct education, allowing SHOP and individual insurance clients to view the online comparison tool, complete a paper application, or receive brochures explaining options and enrollment timeframes. Announcements from the main stage throughout the day encouraged the nearly 30,000 individuals in attendance at MLK365 to visit a Covered California education booth to get their questions answered and take steps to get enrolled. “Getting the word out through trusted sources in the African American community is important if we are to help the more than 200,000 African Americans in California without health insurance get enrolled,” said Pleshette Robertson, Sac Cultural Hub Media Foundation.

Examples of the practice of “doing things together makes it easier” was seen again and again, as sisters made appointments to get enrolled together; when girlfriends encouraged their boyfriends to make appointments to get enrolled when she could come with him to help; and when a grand-daughter helped her grandmother explain her needs for coverage.

Each person, agency, educator, and faith and community leader is encouraged to contribute to improving our lives at this event and motivated with the idea that…“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

The 2014 Martin Luther King Day celebration brought out young and old and linked them with services and take home information relevant to family and friends. Despite the challenge of the state-led Covered California web site being off-line for maintenance during one of the most active community mobilization efforts in the African American community, Covered California educators and enrollers worked diligently to ensure African Americans obtained the information they need to get enrolled in a health insurance plan by March 31, 2014.

To get more info on enrollment options in affordable health insurance under Covered California, go to http://www.sacculturalhub.com/covered-california.

Submitted by Contributing Writer, Valarie Scruggs

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