ll by itself, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an occasion deserving of celebration. But for the literacy advocates of the Compton-based World Literacy Crusade, it was also a fitting occasion to champion the cause closest to their hearts: bringing learning and literacy skills to all people.
“Literacy is a gateway through which all our young people must pass if they are to achieve Dr. King’s dream of equal opportunity,” said Academy Award-winning composer and actor Isaac Hayes. As international spokesman for the World Literacy Crusade, Hayes co-hosted its 6th Anniversary gala and gospel salute to Dr. King, held at the Wilshire Ebell Theater on January 16. “Many inner city children and adults continue to leave school without achieving even basic reading proficiency,” he added. “Nothing could have a more far-reaching effect on our society then eradicating this problem forever.”
The event, “Living the Dream Through Literacy,” was sponsored by Northwest Airlines, Southern California Edison, Comedy Central, Bank of America, Earthlink, the City of Compton, KJLH Radio and the United Parcel Service, and attended by more than 700. Notable guests included actor, author and director Bill Duke; actors Robert Guillaume, Tim Reid (“Sister, Sister”), Jo Marie Payton-Noble (“Family Matters”), Tichina Arnold (“Martin”) and Arif Kinchen (“Sparks”); U.S. Congresswoman Juanita MacDonald, Compton Councilwoman Marcine Shaw and Princess Aziz of Ghana.
The Crusade was founded by Baptist Minister Rev. Alfreddie Johnson in the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots to help address the problems of illiteracy, poverty and hopelessness, which he decried as the underlying causes of the violence. Its programs are based on the educational research and writings of author, philosopher and educator L. Ron Hubbard, who developed a unique and comprehensive approach to the subject of study and learning, including a body of innovative techniques known as Study Technology. (See “Turning Lives Around.”)
The evening also paid tribute to individuals whose contributions had significantly furthered the World Literacy Crusade’s mission. The Crusader Award was presented to Bill Duke by actor and director Clarence Williams III; Councilwoman Shaw received the Knight Award, presented by Congresswoman MacDonald; and WLC staffer Ronald Brown was presented the Warrior Award by Genie Dillard. In recognition of Mr. Hubbard and what his contributions to study have meant to millions across the world, Celes King III, California Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) presented a special award to L. Ron Hubbard, praising him as “a great humanitarian and educator who brought renewed hope to children and adults across the nation.” Isaac Hayes accepted the award on the late Mr. Hubbard’s behalf.
Also posthumously honored was community activist, leader and newspaper editor Kenneth Thomas of the Los Angeles Sentinel, the city’s largest African-American newspaper.
The evening also featured a benefit concert headlined by Sounds of Blackness, I.D.O.L. King, Victor Bell and Halel, Michael Speaks and the Hush Company dance troupe. The children of Project Genesys and the Compton Literacy Project also performed “Imagine,” an original play.
The overriding message of the event was wholly in keeping with the dreams of the late Dr. King and Mr. Hubbard, and summed up by Rev. Alfreddie Johnson: “That dream of equality is unattainable without the ability to learn, the ability to understand and the ability to be understood. With those abilities, people can create their own future and realize their goals. That is what the Crusade is all about.”