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MLK Event: Don't Accept "You Can't," Says Police Chief

The comments Monday by El Cerrito Police Chief Sylvia Moir at El Cerrito High School culminated the city's 23rd annual march and rally honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Recounting her efforts to overcome gender stereotyping – to play Little League baseball and then to become a police officer – El Cerrito Police Chief urged listeners at Monday’s Dr. King rally to continue to stand up against the “You can’t do that because you’re a ...” argument.

“Dr. Martin Luther King would expect it of each of us,” she said.

On a chilly sunny morning, the annual King celebration began with participants gathering in the DMV parking lot near City Hall, then marching to El Cerrito High’s Performing Arts Center, which hosted the rally for the first time.

The event featured a mixture of entertainment, inspiration, and calls to action, drawing a broad cross-section of the community, including several West County political leaders: Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, who served as emcee, County Supervisor John Gioia, City Council members, West Contra Costa Unified school board members, City Manager Scott Hanin and schools Superintendent Bruce Harter.

During his brief comments to the gathering, Gioia said what makes El Cerrito’s event the best in Contra Costa County is that it incorporates so many young people.

Among them was Eden Adafre, a fourth-grader at Madera Elementary School, who told the gathering, “I always try to think critically and intensively, just like Dr. King.” The program included other Madera and Harding Elementary School students, the Portola Middle School and El Cerrito High jazz bands, and other young performers.

Moir said that as a child, “I wanted to play baseball and I was told, ‘You can’t play baseball because you are a girl.’ "

Her father responded by giving her two books for inspiration, one about Lou Gehrig and the other about Jackie Robinson. “He said, ‘Next year we’ll be there,’ and he signed me up to play baseball." She showed up on opening day to find people protesting the fact that a girl was playing Little League.  Her father told her to stick with it and that someday people would be talking about the fact that she was a good ball player, not a girl playing ball.

Inspired by a ride-along, she pursued a career as a police officer, only to be told once again that she didn’t belong because she was female, and too small. She persevered, breaking a record for being the fastest to scale a six-foot wall and run 25 yards in the process.

“I was told no because I was a girl. It made me want the dream even more. It made me work even harder,” Moir said.

Earlier in the program, civic leader Lloyd Madden presented the 2012 Martin Luther King Dream Award to W. A. and Dorothy Wiliiams. W.A. is retired from the school district and Dorothy from the medical field. Both broke color barriers through their work and have been active in the community for many years.

Kelly January 17, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Wonderful event! Great performances. Inspiring words. Loved the Bay Area Line Dancers!

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