Civil Rights Movement’s Past and Present Converge to Commemorate MLK’s Death

by Susan Fried

Hundreds of Seattleites from diverse races and backgrounds packed the pews of Mount Zion Baptist Church on Wednesday, April 4. All were in attendance to pay tribute to the life and legacy of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50th Anniversary of his assassination.

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Tia Yarbrough gives a spoken word performance Wednesday night. [Photo: Susan Fried]
The ceremony featured speeches by a who’s who of Seattle’s civil rights history including Larry Gossett, Eddie Rye Jr., and State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos. It also featured young, emerging leaders who are continuing the struggle like Garfield student Chandler Williams, Toshiko Hasegawa, and former congressional intern and spoken word artist Louie Tan Vital.  

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Toshiko Hasegawa (left) talks with Dominique Stephens at Wednesday’s ceremony. [Photo: Susan Fried]
Williams, who recently attended the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C., said that the experience of his trip showed, “there had been a major connection between my generation and Dr. King’s generation.”  Like the March on Washington in 1963 the March for our Lives, “had no violence, this event had no rebellion.  This event had no separation of race or social class.”  Chandler ended his speech by saying that he will be eligible to vote in a year and a day and that everyone should “stay involved to vote, stay educated to vote.  Stay peaceful to vote.”

Robert Upham, who represented the Salish/ Dakota-Sioux tribe reminded the audience of how King had spoken about the existence of racism in the US from the moment colonists set foot on American soil.  

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Andre Taylor speaking at Mt. Zion on Wednesday night. [Photo: Susan Fried]
“Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shore, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its Indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode -our literature; our films; our drama; our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations.”

Other speakers included Kevin Allen, Sameth Mell, and Andre Taylor, who respectively spoke about the labor movement, immigrant rights, and social justice.As love and respect palpably filled the air for arguably America’s greatest civil rights leader, the night concluded with Pat Wright and the Total Experience Gospel Choir leading all the attendees in singing, “We Shall Overcome.”

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One thought on “Civil Rights Movement’s Past and Present Converge to Commemorate MLK’s Death”

  1. Wow. This is an insult to MLK’s work. Why don’t liberal black people understand MLK at all? Why do they insist that MLK prioritized VOTING ahead of political activism, ie protest and civil disobedience? Why don’t liberal black folks understand that for most of this country’s history, black people didn’t have the right to vote and that the ONLY way black people won voting rights (remember again, at a time when they could not vote) was through PROTEST and CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE? Why are liberal black folk so damn eager and willing to take a dump on the history and methods of struggle that got them and other people of color out of Jim Crow? Why are liberal black folks so damned eager to to tow the line of rich white racist Democrats like Hillary Clinton, who also dismissed the Civil Rights Movement when she argued that LBJ “gave” black people civil rights?

    Black people turning electoral politics into a fetish while dismissing, disrespecting, and ignoring social movements is the whitest thing ever.

    You know who wants black people to believe that voting matters more than protest? Rich white Democrats and the black folks who always vote for them.

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