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Hands Across Azusa Joins Together City Residents and APU Students to Celebrate Unity

by Kimberly Rios '13

On Sunday, January 20, Azusa City Hall’s front lawn bustled with activity as residents of all ages and backgrounds came together to celebrate the 11th annual Hands Across Azusa. The event takes place every Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in Azusa to commemorate the importance of unity and diversity within the city. Kicking off the festivities, Azusa Pacific University students, joined by Azusa Mayor Joe Rocha, marched in a large group from APU’s Seven Palms to Azusa City Hall.

Hands Across Azusa featured local performances, including the APU Gospel Choir, the Azusa High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), AMFM, and APU’s Step Team (Umoja). In addition, in honor of this year’s theme “Azusa’s Spirit of Harmony,” the city held a community-wide poetry contest and honored the winners at the gathering.

A key highlight of the day, the annual reading of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” by Reverend Logan H. Westbrooks, has become an event staple that recognizes the importance of King’s contributions to diversity.

“As an Azusa resident, I am very proud of the city’s continued dedication and commitment to live out Dr. King’s dream of unity, equality, and empowerment,” said Edgar Barron, executive director of Multi-Ethnic Programs at APU. “What happened at the Civic Center on Sunday reflects the vision that the citizens and leaders of Azusa see as the way of life for all of Azusa for many years to come.”

Hands Across Azusa began in 2002 as a response to racial tensions in the city of Azusa. With the work of the Anti-Hate Crimes Task Force and the Azusa Human Relations Commission, hate crimes in the city have decreased by more than 90 percent.

“As a result of the true partnership of APU, AUSD, and the city, Hands Across Azusa demonstrates that our city has changed for the better,” said Rocha, “We have demonstrated that we respect, appreciate, cultivate, and embrace cultural diversity. This transformation needs to continue.”