Hundreds Gather To Ride The Freedom Train On MLK Day
1/17/2011 -- Hundreds Gather To Ride The Freedom Train On MLK Day
San Mateo is flooded with supporters of Dr. Martin Luther King.
By Kenny Porpora
Hundreds gathered on this foggy morning outside the San Mateo Train Station to
celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with the 12th Annual ride on the Freedom Train.
“His message came from the heart,” said Pat Barber, 70, of Burlingame of Dr. King’s
words of unity and togetherness. “He lived up to everything he said and wrote. He just
gave of himself until he could give no more.”
Barber’s friend, Lee Lamkin, 70, of Foster City, agreed: “I’m from the South, in North
Carolina, and I remember when he was killed, I couldn’t stop crying,” she said. “So I
stand up for what he believed in. I don’t think there will ever be anyone else like him.”
The Freedom Train tradition began 12 years ago with just 10 cities, said Rabbi Jay
Miller, a co-founder of the event. Since then, the event has grown significantly to the
entire county of San Mateo.
“Every year this event is a reminder that we need to keep renewing the dream,” said
Miller. “We need to keep fulfilling the dream and following the example Dr. King set.”
The event now includes honoring teachers, special citizens, and even holds an annual
essay contest, won this year by Allyson Kiefer, a junior at Aragon High School.
Kiefer read her winning poem “Diversity From The Inside Out” in front of the audience
gathered, shouting her free verse poem amidst the rumbling trains passing behind her.
On hand to support the festivities also were Assembly member Jerry Hill and Supervisor
Carole Groom, who both sent out their best wishes to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
who was shot last week in Tuscon, Ariz.
“In the wake of so much violence, Dr. King’s words ring that much truer,” said Hill.
“Now more than ever we have to embrace his message.”
For Carolyn Ward, 55, of Daly City, today’s Freedom Train ride was her first.
“I’ve never done this before but I wanted to know what it was all about,” she said
excitedly as noisy CalTrain’s drove by, the horns drowning out her words. “And any
chance I get to support what Dr. King has done for all of us, I take.”
“We came to support the message of Dr. Martin Luther King,’ said Roedelle Myers 63, of
San Mateo. “We’ve been coming for years, and we just love the positive energy and the
unity the day brings.”
While the train bares no decorations or banner, it is an opportunity for supporters to ride
next to one another from San Jose to San Francisco.
The numerous sponsors for the event include Recology San Mateo, the Burlingame Plaza
Shopping Center, Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Fox City Theater in
Redwood City, the Seton Health Canter in Daly City; McDonald’s in East Palo Alto,
Wells Fargo in Atherton, and the Downtown San Mateo Association.
And while many in attendance had spent their lifetimes following the words and
guidance of Dr. King, for Shawn Cotton, 32, of San Mateo, this event transcended
“I followed the words of Dr. King when I was a kid, and now I’m teaching my children
to do the same, “ he said between bites of a cream cheese slathered cinnamon-raisin
Cotton brought both of his children out – Adesia, 13, and Shawn Jr., 8 - to celebrate the
“Today is a day where we can all get together,” he said. “A day where people of all
colors, races, religions, nationalities, we all fit in here.”