This week’s clips highlight just a few of the people’s celebrations and struggles honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It took 15 years to establish the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. After Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced legislation creating the holiday. The bill stalled in Congress until a petition containing 6 million signatures was submitted and two national marches were held, in 1982 and 1983. Congress passed Conyers’ bill in 1983 and President Reagan signed it into law. The first federal King holiday was celebrated in 1986.

Some states resisted the federal law. Several Southern states still include celebrations for various Confederate generals on the King holiday. Following a mass struggle, Arizona finally recognized the holiday in 1992. New Hampshire became the last state to observe the holiday, changing the name of the third Monday in January from Civil Rights Day to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

DENVER, Colo.: Over 30,000 call for peace, justice, equality

Without the Civil Rights Movement and the leadership of Dr. King, Darryl Searuggs believes he would not have achieved his dream to become an airline pilot. That is the reason he decided to bring his teenage daughters to join a sea of people, topping the 30,000 who marched last year, to be part of the struggle for equal opportunity, justice and peace.

Behind the Searuggs family, a street-wide banner featured a peace dove aloft. Throughout the “marade,” Denver’s name for the celebration combining parade and march, signs and chants called for an end to the Iraq war and funding for housing, education and jobs.

Darnell Slaughter, a teacher, sees continued police brutality dimming the progress of racial equality since the 1960s. She marched with her daughters and a vanload of their classmates. “A lot of people, a lot of generations, not just the younger generations, but the older ones too, feel like we’ve arrived and we’ve overcome, but we haven’t,” she said. Slaughter cited the 2003 shooting of 15-year-old Paul Childs by a white policeman and the overturning of a 10-month suspension of that officer. Since then, said Slaughter, there have been increasing shootings of Black youth by white police officers. “A lot of small things happen that in an isolated way don’t look like a big deal, but when they happen constantly, you see the way different races are treated,” she said.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper addressed the crowd, assuring the city’s support for equal opportunity in housing and jobs.

GREENVILLE, S.C.: Struggle for King holiday continues

This is the only county in the U.S. that does not celebrate the King holiday. Two years ago, thousands marched here to establish the holiday. Last November, voters cleaned house and elected new County Council members who promised to celebrate the King holiday, including a paid day off for county workers.

On Jan. 15, Greenville son Rev. Jesse Jackson led a march of 500 through the streets to hold the newly elected officials’ feet to the fire. “We don’t have a holiday yet,” said marcher Corey Robinson.

The new council members held their first meeting Jan. 18. The King holiday was not on the published agenda.

COLUMBUS, Ga.: 8,000 march to end police murders

It was a routine traffic stop in 2003, but Kenneth Walker, 39, ended up dead. Walker was not armed. The deputy sheriff who shot him, David Glisson, was not indicted nor disciplined. Glisson said it was a drug investigation. No drugs were found.

Led by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, over 8,000 marched Jan. 16, to remember Walker and demand an end to police officers killing Black men and getting away with it.

Cheryl Walker, Kenneth Walker’s widow, was stunned at the turnout. “When they first talked about doing this march, I wondered how many people would be interested enough to show up. Y’all have shown there is a reason, there is a justice today.”

“Kenny has even been blamed for his own death,” she told the crowd. “I have asked questions and been personally attacked. It’s here where we live in society where this has been accepted and allowed. We have asked that justice be served. That has not happened.”

COLUMBIA, S.C.: Fund public schools, no to privatization

Full funding for public schools, not private schools, was on the minds of 2,000 South Carolinians as they marched on the State House, Jan. 17, in the footsteps of Dr. King.

Dennis Courtland Hayes, acting national NAACP president, addressed the rally on the state house steps. He challenged the state government to present a plan to close the academic achievement gap between white students and Black students.

“In rural South Carolina, the students are not getting the proper care as students in other areas,” said marcher Jarrett Smith. “We have a governor now who wants to put education in private schools … it needs to be in public schools. We’re all Americans here.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com).

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