BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The marchers met at Lowell Park in central Bakersfield, and with the champion of voting rights and desegregation leading the way – and urging them to turn the other cheek to the intimidation and threats they were sure to receive – they went west.

They headed toward Bakersfield High School’s Harvey Auditorium, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be speaking to a sold-out house that night – Feb. 25, 1960.

They marched down 4th Street to Chester Avenue, the city’s main drag, where – led by King, they turned north, toward downtown.

That’s where the trouble started.

From about 4th Street to 7th Street, as they marched toward California Avenue, the marchers were showered with debris – bricks, bottles, all sorts of trash.

“It scared some folks and others were resolved to go forward,” said the Rev. Ralph Anthony of Bakersfield.

Anthony, a few weeks shy of his 20th birthday, was there.

“It was historical, it was exciting, and it was dangerous,” Anthony said. “But those of us that were keeping up with developments and part of change, we welcomed him here and we didn’t mind putting our lives on the line for the truth.”

62 years later, America still celebrates his legacy – the truths that King lived for and died for. Truths that Rev. Anthony still strives to share with his community.

“This is a Black, White, brown (issue),” he said, “and everybody’s saying, Man, we need to do all this again. And I said, the truth!”

The marchers continued to Bakersfield High School, and a theater so packed Anthony could barely wedge himself through the front doors. 

“People were enthusiastic,” Anthony said. “They wanted to see the King. It was always resonating in me already. It was a song in my heart. It was the movement that I’d already resolved to be part of, all the rest of my life.”

And though the march ended at Bakersfield High School that day, the mission did not. King fought on until his murder in Memphis in 1968. But the quest didn’t end even then. Ask anyone at the MLK Day Community Awards Breakfast Monday morning – there’s still work to do. 

The sold-out event at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in MLK Park was a combination church service, call to action and expression of gratitude to those who have worked to improve the lives of the Black community of Kern County over the years.

Among those honored was Michael Trihey, news director of 17 News and a journalist in Bakersfield since 1978. As a reporter for the Bakersfield Californian, Trihey wrote a series of special reports on wrongly convicted criminal defendants and on the conditions facing young African American men in southeast Bakersfield.