The City of Ottawa has reaffirmed its commitment to racial justice and equality.

The Rev. Ernest Jones, Bethany Chapel Baptist Church, accepted a proclamation from Ottawa city commissioners recognizing February as Black History Month on Wednesday night during the commission’s regular meeting at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa.

The city declared, “February has been set aside nationally for Black History Month to allow an opportunity for citizens to become aware of the contributions African-Americans have made.”

Rev. Jones thanked the commission, and stressed the ongoing importance of fostering harmony between all people groups.

“If we are going to continue to progress as a nation, if we are going to continue to progress as a city, we have to continue to make room for inclusiveness, and make space for love,” Jones said. “Dr. Martin Luther King said something very important. He said ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.’ And then he said, ‘Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’ I want to thank the City of Ottawa for recognizing our contribution — not only to Ottawa, but to the nation. And we pray that we will continue to move in a progressive direction, so that we as citizens of Ottawa can all live together in harmony.”

The evening also featured an essay reading by Adelle Higbie, sixth grade student from West Franklin Middle School, Pomona. Higbie won the community’s 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest last month.

“While some people have legacies of royalty and power, Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy was a passion for equality and peace,” Higbie read. “Dr. King led several nonviolent protests against segregation, which would change America forever.

“Dr. King gave America new ways to look at segregation: as an unfair action that can be changed if everyone worked together,” she continued. “He never used violence or harsh words, and he always respected others’ feelings.

All Dr. King wanted was a chance for equality, and he accomplished his dream. Martin Luther King Jr. changed America, and will forever be remembered.”

Mayor Mike Skidmore, who selected Higbie’s essay as the 2018 overall winner, lauded all the students who submitted essays from across the county.

“I’m really encouraged by the younger kids: they get it,” Skidmore said. “They get it folks, and I appreciate that they do. A lot of the adults don’t yet, but at least we’ve got this generation coming up, and they get it. And I’m very proud of them.”