Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration – Ventura County | An Open Letter


By Deborah Baber Savalla


Dear Honorable Members of the MLK Committee of Ventura County, Neighbors, Friends, and Fellow County Residents,

I moved here four years ago to live full time after being in New York City for over 30 years.Yesterday was my first Martin Luther King Day celebration experience in Ventura County. It was held at Oxnard’s Performing Arts Center. 

The choir was sensational! The music, words, and voices were inspiring. It was humbling to watch the young people mount the stage and be honored for their scholarship, their hearts and minds filled with the hopes and dreams of their tomorrows! The lovely debutantes’ appearance with their handsome escorts bespoke the elegance anticipated for their special night at the 54th Annual Onyx Club Debutante Ball. The audience welcomed these joy-filled moments with enthusiasm and collective applause.

I was enthralled with and mesmerized by the superb diorama of historical figures that graced the lobby between the auditorium and the exhibition hall. And I am excited to read Mr. Gibson’s autobiographical book, Looking Beyond the Mirror, The Untold Story of Growing Up African American in 20th Century Ventura County, California.

My colleagues and I were deeply satisfied with our experience in the dining and exhibition hall. The people who stopped at our display table picked up literature, asked questions, smiled, nodded in agreement, and shook hands.The day was spectacular….except for one thing: the keynote address.

Why? Because at least three choir members, Rev. Nica Eaton-Guinn, Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn, Oxnard Mayor ProTem Carmen Ramirez, Oxnard City Councilmember Bert Perello, Public Health Medical Director Dr. Robert Levin, one of my colleagues, several dozen other attendees and supporters, and me were castigated, singled out, and excoriated for the “color of our skin”… the very prejudice Dr. Martin Luther King fought against.

I do not and cannot believe that anyone among the planning committee would do as Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson did: judge people by the color of their skin and encourage others to deplore them. That is the very definition of racism. I know I am right that the majority of attendees did not share Gaye Johnson’s ugly “white supremacist” indictment of our fellow humankind because Johnson’s remarks were met with only tepid, polite, and sparse applause, at best.

I am nearly 62 years old. I was raised to respect others. I was encouraged to appreciate, applaud, and learn about our differences. I was schooled in our nation’s black, slave-owning history. I was taught to always remember the grave, profound, and compelling responsibility WE must share to embrace our past so it never again becomes our present. Clearly, Gaye Theresa Johnson did not get the same growing-up memo I and countless other Americans did. Thank goodness I am NOT a GT Johnson team member!

To all the committee members, volunteers, and fellow vendors: Thank you for your hard work and enthusiasm. The day was brilliantly executed. On all our behalf, I deeply regret the ugly, divisive stain of racism Gaye Johnson gifted the audience on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday and on Ventura County’s celebration of his memory!


Deborah Baber Savalla

Deborah Baber Savalla is a former New York City book publishing executive. She believes in moral clarity because it leads naturally to personal responsibility which WILL RESULT in small government. 

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6 Responses to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration – Ventura County | An Open Letter

  1. The People of Oxnard. January 21, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    If her calling out “White Supremacists” makes you feel some kind of way …I guess the shoe fits…

    • The People of Truth January 21, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      Dr. MLK Jr. wasn’t assassinated for his dream. He was assassinated because he woke up.

    • Deborah Baber Savalla January 21, 2018 at 11:49 pm

      Dear Cowardly People of Oxnard… I’m guessing you are kin to the equally cowardly People of Ventura. Unlike the speaker Gaye Johnson, my heart, spirit, and mind embrace all races. It is Johnson’s “shoe size” that should concern you unless, of course, you too embrace her “white supremacist” views.

  2. Deborah Baber-Savalla January 20, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Dear Cowardly People of Ventura… hiding behind an anonymous name to disagree in shameful fashion with my view on what took place is the height of impotence. Your attempt to diminish reasonable observations and factual reports of Gaye Johnson calling out “white supremacists”, her words, not mine is silly and superficial at best and disingenuous and dishonest at worst. You clearly have an agenda that attempts to smear and intimidate a fellow human being you disagree with. In the name of Martin Luther King, Jr., shame on you cowards. Further, our great nation has only one President at a time. He presides in that office over all of us, like it or not. Lastly, judging from your exceedingly poor writing skills, I question how well you can read. You obviously missed reading the many accolades I heaped on the MLK program, its exhibits, music, food, and vendors. Quite simply, you are an embarrassment.

  3. The People of Ventura. January 20, 2018 at 9:44 am

    The speaker was great. If you felt some kind of way then you are the problem. No one singled out anyone. You failed to mention anything specific, any statement from anyone, or what exactly happened. Your entire thread is vague and at most an attempt to persuade people from future attendance. There were police, military and dignitaries present who would disagree with your skewed fantasies about what happened. It was great event and you are trying to diminish its effect. While you state many great things about Dr MLK Jr you failed to mention anything about the absence your president from any MLK event. You should be ashamed of yourself. You are transparent as freshly washed window on a sunny spring morning. It is clear that this is a political smear campaign with the intent to end the great program that those folks put a lot of work into.

    • Citizen Reporter January 20, 2018 at 11:34 am

      President Trump recognizes Martin Luther King

      President Donald Trump recognized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, urging Americans to remember and celebrate his legacy. “I ask every citizen to join me in remembering this great American hero and to carry on his legacy of justice, equality, and freedom,” Trump said in a video address.

      “Dr. King’s dream is our dream. It is the American Dream. It’s the promise stitched into the fabric of our Nation, etched into the hearts of our people, and written into the soul of humankind.”

      Trump reminded Americans the importance of King’s legacy and the importance of the holiday, noting that although he was assassinated, his dream lived on. “On this cherished day, we honor the memory of Rev. King and we rededicate ourselves to a glorious future where every American from every walk of life, can live free from fear, liberated from hatred, and uplifted by boundless love for their fellow citizens,” he said.

      Trump restated King’s dream that Americans should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. “Dr. King’s dream is our dream. It is the American Dream,” Trump said. “It’s the promise stitched into the fabric of our Nation, etched into the hearts of our people, and written into the soul of humankind. It is the dream of a world where people are judged by who they are, not how they look or where they come from.”


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