Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is a national holiday for everyone, except most workers working for major corporations. The mail carrier is off, but Wal-Mart is open.
While corporations view the third Monday in January as just another day to pile up profits, millions of working Americans – Black, white and Brown – take to the streets and churches to demand peace and racial and economic equality. Americans demonstrate a humane vision of America that stands in sharp contrast to the actions and plans of Bush’s corporate America.
In every state, in communities large and small, Americans celebrated Dr. King’s holiday, Jan. 19. Below is just a taste of the “Dream” as the U.S. people see it.
LOS ANGELES – Martin Luther King Boulevard was jammed with 100,000 people for the 19th annual Kingdom Day Parade. Floats, bands and organizations from every neighborhood of the country’s most diverse city filled the streets celebrating their culture and honoring the murdered civil rights leader. Mayor James Hahn led elected officials from every level of government in the march under the banner, “Living the Challenge of King’s Dream,” which took four hours to make its way through South Los Angeles.
DENVER – This city’s first African American mayor, Wellington Webb, and his wife Wilma established the “marade,” a combination of march and parade, and thousands marched to the Civic Center where the King commemoration was broadcast live.
The theme was inclusiveness in power.
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Three thousand cheered a fiery speech by Rev. David Williams who called on the audience to remember that Dr. King was a dissident, an antiwar protester during the Vietnam War. “Rev. King made America better by disagreeing with it when it was profoundly wrong,” roared Rev. Williams.
MICHIGAN – From Clinton Township to Lansing to Ann Arbor to Saginaw to Detroit, Michigan residents by the hundreds and the thousands cheered Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the University of Michigan for defense of affirmative action in higher education and demanded that democratic gains be protected and expanded.
Constance Slaughter-Harvey, the first Black woman to graduate the University of Mississippi Law School, addressed students, residents and faculty at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Barbara Seldon, 60, participated in the Southfield Peace Walk near Detroit. “We march if for no other reason than to not forget history, so it won’t repeat itself,” she said in the arctic cold. “We’ve come so far as a people, but every day we struggle to make sure we keep our rights. There are those in our society who judge by color, so we’re here to keep King’s dream alive – to continue his work.”
SAN ANTONIO – An estimated 60,000 people participated in this city’s Martin Luther King Day March, once again among the largest in the nation.
Anti-Bush and antiwar sentiments were palpable among marchers. A petition was being circulated to propose passage of a resolution by the City Council against the Patriot Act.
The march wound its way through the city’s East Side where San Antonio’s African American population is concentrated.
Present were contingents and representatives from groups such as the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Poets for Peace, the United Farm Workers Union, SEIU Local 1967, League of United Latin American Citizens Council 222, the Boeing Black Employees Association and the National Association of Public Employees (NAPE). NAPE was working to bring awareness to a lawsuit it has filed with the city, charging discrimination against Black municipal workers with regards to pay raises and job promotions.
When Rod Stryker of Poets for Peace was asked how he saw the role of poets in facilitating peace, he responded by stating that poets “don’t have a choice. We have to tell what we see. We have to reflect the human condition; it comes with the job.”
Traditional gospel hymns were sung sporadically throughout the 3.4-mile march, and a program took place afterward. Speakers included Congressmen Charlie Gonzalez and Ciro Rodriguez, both of whom praised Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy of nonviolence and criticized the Bush administration’s domestic policies. The Rev. Claudette Copeland was the main speaker.
FLORIDA – Students at Florida A&M University walked out when Gov. Jeb Bush arrived to deliver the keynote address to the School of Business and Industry. In 1999, the president’s brother ended affirmative action in higher education. In a flyer, students said that the governor’s visit “disrespected” Dr. King and Black students.
In the Liberty City area of Miami, students took to the streets for several rallies to register voters, and artist Dinizula Gene Tinnie called on the hundreds attending an annual breakfast to speak out against the war in Iraq.
Through the streets of Liberty City, a parade heralding Black political, intellectual and cultural achievements met the cheers of thousands lining the streets.
BOSTON – The first woman bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Rev. Vashti Murphy-McKenzie, said the nation should adjust its priorities.
“We can find billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan and we cannot find the money to rebuild the infrastructure of the United States,” Murphy-McKenzie said.
ARIZONA – In the Tucson desert, the 4,000 marchers in the King Day parade carried their signs for peace, health care and supporting their candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, from the University of Arizona to Reid Park.
Clarence Boykins, parade organizer, called on African Americans to vote. “It’s what King fought for, lived for and died for,” he said. “When the time comes, we have to take part in the process.”
It was a cool day in Phoenix as hundreds marched from University Union to the du Bois Center, filling the ballroom. Crystal Warden of Flagstaff was inspired to see so many people of every race and nationality who shared Dr. King’s dream and took the time to participate.
ATLANTA – “We have to be concerned not just about us. We have to be concerned about all our brothers and sisters throughout our nation and world,” King’s son Martin Luther King III said in a service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his father preached until he was assassinated in 1968.
“How many Iraqi children have been killed? When will the war end? We all have to be concerned about terrorism, but you will never end terrorism by terrorizing others.”
King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, said, “Peaceful ends can only be reached through peaceful means.”
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin brought forth a hearty standing ovation when she referred to a visit Bush made last week to King’s tomb. The visit was picketed by nearly 800 people who said the president should not have come because his policies are inconsistent with King’s principles of nonviolence.
Referring to the president, Franklin said, “Perhaps some prefer to honor the dreamer while ignoring or fighting the dream.”
But amid the criticisms, there was a tone of hope. Martin Luther King III told the audience that his father would have wanted people to work together for peace and justice even when they seem impossible to achieve.
“He had a policy of zero tolerance for despair and cynicism,” King said.
DALLAS – The city of Dallas sponsored their Martin Luther King Jr. march and parade on Jan. 17. This year, there were two labor contingents and three groups representing elements of the peace movement. Students from Paul Quinn college registered voters in the crowds, and civil liberties activists distributed leaflets calling for a City Council vote against the Patriot Act.
They made the point that Dr. King was the best-known victim of the government’s dirty tricks, and that the Patriot Act legalizes those same disgusting FBI practices.
– Compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (email@example.com);
San Antonio report written by Guadalupe Oyervidez Locandro; Dallas report by Jim Lane.