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Marchers and speakers on MLK Day express their hopes, dreams

Talina Moore, Jirodan Lyn Gillon, Kamari Thurman and Keelayna Ballard from Calvary Baptist express hope for black and white people to unite.

More than 4,000 people of all ages participated in the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Rally and March honoring the work in the past and today for civil rights and for ending discrimination. NAACP Spokane president Phil Tyler, Whitworth University president Beck Taylor, The Black Lens editor Sandy Williams, Spokane Mayor David Condon and U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers were among the speakers for the Jan. 16 rally in Spokane.

Unity means “coming together as a community and striving to set a good example,” Phil said.  “Unity is needed as a bridge when leadership divides.”

He said the election cycle showed what Americans do not want their future to look like.

“We must include marginalized voices as we come together to make change.  We must be part of change,” he said.

Phil referred to a photo of Martin Luther King Jr., the father of the civil rights movement with the number 7089 below it.  The photo was taken when he was booked into the Birmingham, Ala., jail.

“He was not silent about issues that had impact on him and other people,” Phil said.  “He spoke for marginalized Americans who were unable or feared to speak up.  Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter.”

While people come together the second week of January each year to proclaim their desire to do better, be better and live better, he said that too often after the march they take a mental vacation to go to a tropical place, “Sometime Isle.” 

MLK Communiity Choir

“That’s sometime I’ll do something to end hate and discrimination,” Phil said.  “This thinking may relieve some, but it does nothing to end prejudice.”

He reminded people of Dr. King’s words, “Silence is betrayal.”

Phil called people to do something to solve the problems.

“If there is a human problem, there is a human solution,” he said.  “We can no longer be silent.  Our future is at stake.  Let 2017 be the year of accountability for ourselves and our community leaders.”

He called for action on criminal justice, education, health care, civic engagement and public discourse.

“When we talk, we want people to listen with compassion and empathy, to hear the message and understand why it is important. We need to resolve to be resolute to be the resolution in this new year and new world,” Phil said, challenging people not to turn away when they see injustice.

“We have two eyes and need to use them.  We have a heart we need to use to love our neighbors equally,” he said.  “Then and only then will we realize MLK’s words: ‘I decided to stick to love.’ Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

MLK marchers from Whitworth University.

Sandy Williams, editor of Spokane’s two-year-old Black Lens newspaper, said an example of her effort to give different perspectives was publishing a speech of Martin Luther King, Jr., that few hear.  It was a sermon he gave at Riverside Church in New York City on how the Vietnam War ravaged the economy and impoverished African Americans.

He was vilified for the sermon by the government and many in the African-American community, but as a Christian minister he was committed to speak out for peace and justice.

“The Good News is meant for all,” he said, “for communists and capitalists, their churches and ours, black and white, conservatives and revolutionaries.” Dr. King also pointed out, “Nonviolence helps us see our enemy’s point of view.”

Spokane Mayor David Condon said he believes Dr. King’s spirit and persistence as a champion for civil rights, equality and justice can be found in Spokane.

“Spokane is not immune to racism or hatred. We must continue to stress that our community will not tolerate racism or hatred,” he said, calling the community to unite to support victims of hate.

“Victims of hate do not walk alone.  They need to report incidents to local law enforcement.  They are here to help us,” he said, affirming that the community will not tolerate mistreatment of anyone. “We strive to create a city where people from all walks of life and backgrounds can feel safe and included.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers spoke about MLK changing the course of history, teaching people to dream for a better tomorrow.

She called for post-election unity: “We must see how divided we are and find how we can heal. We need to embrace today and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  Everyone matters.

“Changing the culture is up to us, our neighbors and communities.  We should treat all people with dignity.  We need to do more to address racism.  We may not always agree, but we can come together to build community,” she said.

Some chanted, “Save our health care.” A few booed.

The Rev. Happy Watkins gives the "I have a dream" speech at the MLK Day Rally

Freda Gandy, executive director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Outreach Center and emcee, called for the audience to remember children were watching.  Then Freda called for coming together, transitioning to say, “Who is better at unifying us than Pastor Happy Watkins.”

As he has done for decades, the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church gave MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, inserting a few additions for these times.

“Though we face the difficulties of today and the next four years, I still have a dream….a dream that President Obama and his family will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

In repeating “let freedom ring from…” he added, “Let freedom ring from Trump Tower in Manhattan,” and then, “when we allow freedom to ring” from “every city and hamlet, state and city,” then “we will speed up that day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics” will join hands and sing the words, “Free at last, free at last, Great God Almighty, we are free at last.”

The MLK Center raised more than $10,000 at the rally.

For information, call 455-8722 or visit mlkspokane.org.



Copyright © February 2017 - The Fig Tree