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Community leaders discuss civil rights


Several community leaders offered reflections on the local significance of the annual Martin Luther King Jr., Day at the 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service on Sunday, Jan. 19, at Holy Temple Church of God in Christ.

Others shared at the opening rally the next day before more than 2,000 people marched from the Convention Center to River Park Square. 

The march included many more children than in other years, coming to learn about the civil rights leader’s impact in the 1950s and 1960s, and his impact on lives today.

“What do we want as the journey for freedom, justice and equality continues?” the Rev. Lawrence Burnley, assistant vice president of intercultural relations at Whitworth University, asked at the service.

“This is a time to remember the sacrifices of those upon whose shoulders we stand and to reflect on what the Creator says to us as individuals and as a collective people,” he said.

Spokane attorney Gloria Ochoa, director of local government multicultural affairs for the City of Spokane, reported that Mayor Condon created the position to address the city’s diversity needs, one of which is that the city’s work force be representative of Spokane’s diversity.

“We have much work to do to break the barriers that deny access to education and opportunities for women, people of color and our LGBT community to succeed in reaching positions of leadership, authority and power, and have a seat at the table,” she said.

Gloria, a marathon runner, likened the process to preparing for and finishing a marathon. 

“Marathon runners need to educate themselves, train, have mentors that encourage and push, and have supporters along the way,” she said.  “Even if a runner makes it to the starting line, it’s not enough.  They need to be able to stay in the marathon and make it to the finish line.

“Too many people of color start the race but do not finish,” she said. “All of us need to be on the sidelines providing the resources needed.”

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told of teaching 15-year-olds in a Sunday school lesson on recognizing what God does for people in their daily lives.

“One of the gifts God gave us is King.  What have we done with God’s gift?  What are we doing?  God’s spirit taught us to love one another,” he said.  “King walked in the footsteps of God to freedom, justice and equality.  He knew there would be a price for his words, life and actions.  He knew hate and that as long as people hated, we would need to counter it.  We need to treasure the precious gift God gave us in him.”

Last summer, Ozzie continued, community youth gathered to say, “No more violence.” 

“Did we grab hold of that gift?” Ozzie asked.  “Love and education are each part of what we need if we want young people to break out of violence.  King was our mentor.  He was a true gift.  God only sends gifts every once in a while to call for love, unity, hope and education.”

James Wilburn, president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, said King was a member of the Montgomery, Ala., branch of the NAACP, and became its president during the bus boycott.

He quoted King as saying that African Americans would not be satisfied until justice rolls down like a mighty stream.  Then he read the “I Have a Dream” speech.

For information, call 455-8722.

Copyright © February 2014 - The Fig Tree