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2015 MLK March draws nearly 3,000 to support values of Martin Luther King Jr.

By Mary Stamp

The Spokane Convention Center tallied 2,300 people coming inside for the rally, noting that hundreds stayed outside and joined the march on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 18.  The march circled from the center four blocks west to Wall St., south to Main and back to the center.

MLK March Spokane
NAACP-Spokane recreates banner from a 1960s march

There was only a two-block gap between the end of the march and marchers returning to the center for the Resource Fair and entertainment.  Several church and faith groups carried banners with their names and expressions of solidarity, along with schools, universities, nonprofits and unions.

Young people were the focus, with students attending from Gonzaga, Whitworth, Washington State and Eastern Washington universities, community colleges and Spokane public schools.

Satori Butler, EWU BSU
Satori Butler

NAACP President Rachel Dolezal said: “We are here to rally, march and support the values of Martin Luther King, Jr., who lived and died for freedom, justice and equality.

“The 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott did not stop after one day, one week, one month or one year.  For 381 days, people walked to work,” she said.  “Today we are beginning a renewed boycott of injustice, working for equality in education, jobs and political participation.  May today not be the end but the beginning of a new day for Spokane and the world.”

Satori Butler, president of EWU’s Black Student Union (BSU), said that EWU’s BSU is promoting change on campus and in Spokane.

“We are holding panels, demonstrations and marches to say black lives matter.  We are challenging the curriculum to promote black studies,” she said.  “King’s dream of equality has been deferred, but we must continue to pursue it.  More needs to be accomplished.  We have a moral obligation to bring justice to lives of people lost in the struggle from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin and to Michael Brown.  The list continues, but must end.

“We are raising leaders to contribute to change so our children no longer suffer the consequences of the past,” Satori said.

MLK March NAACP sign Tahlyke Chenevert
NAACP-Spokane carries a “Black Lives Matter” sign Tahlyke Chenevert

Orenda Stone sang for everyone to persevere, to answer when called and to keep the dream alive.  “Something inside inspires you to try and never give up,” she sang.

Freda Gandy, emcee and executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center, echoed, “Never give up on the fight for justice and what’s right.  Enough is enough.  Stand up for what’s right and for those who can’t fight.  There’s more work to do.  Our young people in colleges and schools are standing up.”

Grant Drummers and Dancers
Grant Elementary School Drummers and Dancers

Student leaders at Grant Elementary School read an essay they wrote about their Dream for Grant.

“Grant students dream that they will uplift each other and celebrate successes of all students.  We dream that students will be respected for their character…and will model good behavior wherever we go.

“We dream that Grant will be a place where students can find comfort and support rather than harassment or exclusion, where students can be themselves, accepted for who they are, no matter where they’ve come from.

“We dream that Grant students will stand up for victims and stop the cycle of violence. 

“We dream that Grant students will be known for respecting who they are,” they said. 

Grant Elementary Student Leaders
Grant Elementary School leaders share an essay on their dream

They said their dream is to show passion for achieving their goals, focusing on college and being community leaders to end the cycle of poverty, to build their neighborhoods and future, to take Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to every part of life, to make changes they want to see and to focus on what they can achieve. 

“We will live every day to focus on what we can achieve,” they said.

Tahlyke Chenevert, 19, of Spokane’s new Urban Poets Society, read a poem that called for redemption through not letting expectations or problems define “who we are as people.”  He recently earned his GED and hopes to attend college.

“Hiphop says life is as good as we make it, challenging us not to misuse social media to bully,” he said

“Education is key,” Tahlyke continued. “We are more than angry blacks.  Though angry and young, we youth of this community have a voice that needs to be heard.  We are communities torn by differences, but we will amount to greatness,” he said.

The Rev. Happy Watkins
Rev. Happy Watkins delivers the "I Have a Dream" speech

Before the marchers flowed out into the streets, the crowd enthusiastically welcomed the Rev. Happy Watkins, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, to give his traditional, rousing rendition of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  The crowd erupted in loud cheers as he closed and marchers began marching.

Marchers returned to learn about community opportunities and resources, and to be entertained by the Grant School African Drummers and Dancers, hula dancers and American Indian dancers.

Young people also joined in opportunities to volunteer in the community.

For information, call 455-8722.

Copyright © February 2015 - The Fig Tree