BARSTOW - It may not seem like a good idea to stage an all uphill march, but it means something.

"The purpose of planning an uphill march is to symbolize the struggle," said Rev. Rita Jackson, who helped lead Saturday's annual peace march. "By taking the Barstow (Road) hill each year that is our way of identifying in the best form that the struggle still exists today."

Jackson was joined by many other Barstow residents - black, white, Hispanic, young, old, mayors, police chiefs and pre-schoolers - to remember the struggle of black Americans and its leader, Martin Luther King by trekking up Barstow Road in the morning. The theme of this year's march, now in its 12th year, was "Make a difference." For Jackson, making that difference means spanning the divides in the community.

"I hope that the community will take greater steps to draw this community together," she said.

Elyce Gray, who marched, said the barriers of race and financial status are still present in Barstow today despite the work of King. The first step to breaking down those barriers, she said, is for people to start changing the way they think about one another.

Gray's father, Pastor Morris Gray Sr. spoke about the divisions in the community during a rally at the Cora Harper Community Center following the march. Despite the differences in skin color and language, he reminded the audience that everyone came from the same beginnings and we all are, in fact, one people.

"We are one people; we are blood kin, whether you like it or not," Gray said. "So stop being prejudice, break down those walls."

The march was started years ago by Barstow's former mayor, Katy Yslas-Yent and long-time activist Clara Jefferson. They have passed on, but the march continues, sponsored by the Art and Industrial Women's Club. For the past couple of marches, preschoolers from Lorretta Carruthers' Tot Time class have been part of the rally, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, singing the national anthem and performing other songs and dance. Carruthers spends considerable time in her classes teaching the students about King, his dream and what he did for America. She said it is important to impart King's teachings on the young.

"Because it starts now," she said. "They will grow up to be just like Martin Luther King."

One of Carruthers' students, Darnesha Brown, 5, said she learned that King was good, preached brotherhood and had eyes that were colorblind, all lyrics from a song Carruthers teaches her students about King. This year, Carruthers said, one of her students really took to the idea that King did not judge people based on the color of their skin.

Every year, the student color a picture of King, and Carruthers tells the students to color his skin brown and black. This year, however, one student used every color on King's face. Carruthers said that when asked why, the student replied that she had taught them that he was colorblind.

Remembrance of King continues on Monday when the Art and Industrial Women's Club hosts a Peace Breakfast at the Sizzler on East Main Street at 8 a.m. Ticket donations are $15 for adults, $8 for children 10 and younger, and can be purchased at the door.

Contact the writer: (760) 256-4121 or aaron_aupperlee@link.freedom.com