MLK namesakes sparse in The City, Peninsula 

Metropolitan areas around the country have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name plastered up on libraries, schools, parks and streets, but in San Francisco and the Peninsula, such honors are few and far between.

The relative void of Bay Area tributes to Dr. King appeared related in some part to population demographics, yet his message remains relevant to everyone, local officials said.

In the East Bay, Martin Luther King Jr. Way winds its way from Oakland up through Berkeley, and Oakland boasts a shoreline and community center (Freedom Center) in his name. In San Francisco, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive runs through the peaceful woods of Golden Gate Park, roughly paralleling John F. Kennedy Drive until they end near the Great Highway.

The City also has a memorial in Yerba Buena Gardens, a middle school and a pool with the 1960s-era leader’s name.

San Mateo County boasts no roads and no schools named for the civil rights leader, but a park in East Palo Alto, a San Mateo community center and a Daly City education center carry King’s name.

"He did have a dream, and it was not just for African-Americans but for everybody," said Rose Jacobs Gibson, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. "I guess [the lack of memorials] has a lot to do with the population."

Gil Cho is the principal at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School — the third such named school he’s worked for in his 30-year education career — in The City, and he noted that the surrounding community was mostly Asian and Caucasian.

He referenced a young Filipino student’s recent essay about Dr. King’s legacy that goes into how the student’s friends — a mixture of white, black, Latino and Asian — are the most important things in his life.

"You might think that the name Dr. King is associated with African-Americans only, but his philosophy has touched kids from all races," Cho said.

Angela Miller, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in San Mateo, said they used to play King’s speeches over the intercom and people would come in to listen, a tradition she hopes to start again next year.

She said more and more ethnicities are becoming interested in King’s message, noting that the surrounding neighborhood, once predominantly black, now is mostly Latino in its population.

"The center has changed significantly, from being 95 percent black to a mix of every race you can think of. To me, that’s the legacy right there," Miller said.

Freedom train schedule

Northern California’s largest Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration takes place today in S.F.’s Civic Center. A rally begins at noon and events, including teach-ins and panels, run all day. Go to www.norcalmlk.org for details on events and transportation. Some free and discounted passes and services for BART and other transit services are available for those traveling to the rally.

Riders can catch the Freedom Train to San Francisco at one of four stations:

San Jose Diridon Station: Departs at 10 a.m.

Sunnyvale: Departs at 10:15 a.m.

Palo Alto: Departs at 10:34 a.m.

San Mateo: Departs at 10:57 a.m.

San Francisco: Arrives at 11:25 a.m.

Tickets cost $5 and are available through the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley, which can be reached at (408) 881-5464. For information on the San Mateo celebration, call the MLK Jr. Day hot line at (650) 377-8708.

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