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Originally published January 16, 2012 at 7:34 PM | Page modified January 16, 2012 at 9:28 PM

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MLK's spirit warms marchers in the snow

Many of the hundreds who participated in the 30th annual Seattle rally and march said they attended in the same spirit of resolve that drove the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil-rights activists in their pursuit of racial equality, economic justice and nonviolence.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Snow — and the threat of more — didn't stop some 800 people from marching Monday in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr.

Many participants in the 30th annual Seattle rally and march from Garfield High School to the Federal Building downtown said they attended in the same spirit of resolve that drove King and other civil-rights activists in their pursuit of racial equality, economic justice and nonviolence.

"I didn't want to make an excuse because of the snow," said Canisha Stenson, of Seattle, who brought her young daughter and niece to the march. "The civil-rights leaders had so much heart for their cause. They didn't give up, and we shouldn't either."

The day's celebration began with workshops and a rally at the high school in Seattle's Central District with a keynote address by the Rev. Leslie Braxton of the New Beginnings Christian Fellowship in Renton.

Braxton concluded his address with an amended version of King's "I have a dream" speech, adding "straight and gay" to King's vision of a world united across racial and economic lines.

To King's call to "let freedom ring" from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado and Stone Mountain of Georgia, Braxton added: "let it ring from the Rainier Valley, from the Central District of Seattle, from Hilltop in Tacoma."

Marchers were mostly bundled against the cold, wearing stocking hats, boots, gloves and scarves. David Berrian, with Washington Peace Team, estimated that he had participated with various peace organizations in 10 previous marches, none of which included snow.

Berrian said he was inspired to come out in the cold by King's message of economic equality and his "courage to stand up to war in the midst of the Vietnam War. That cost him dearly," Berrian said.

Lt. Col. George James, who served in the Army in the Gulf War, marched with a Veterans For Peace group. He recalled King's description of himself as a "drum major for peace."

"We're here to educate people on the cost of war and to work for justice for veterans," James said.

And while some members of his group canceled because of the weather, James said one drove all the way from Wenatchee to participate.

Lou Vargas, a college student with the Pacific Lutheran University Diversity Center, said that the issues of economic inequality and human rights are still a challenge to us today. While some of his group couldn't make it because of the icy conditions, 10 made the drive from Tacoma.

" 'It's cold' is not a reason," said Vargas. "The people before us went through much tougher times than snow."

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.

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