by Chamidae Ford
For the past 38 years, hundreds to thousands of King County residents have arrived at Garfield High School on the third Monday morning in January. Rain or shine, they showed up to march in honor of one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The annual march, hosted by the Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Organizing Coalition (Seattle MLK), marks a time for the community to come together and not just honor Dr. King but to bring attention to the other issues facing the Black community.
Every year, the march has a theme that reflects the current issues that are impacting the community. This year, for the 39th-Annual event, Seattle MLK chose the phrase “Good Trouble, Necessary Trouble” to represent the event.
Shaude’ Moore, the chair of Seattle MLK, explained the inspiration behind this year’s theme.
“Growing up, we are told don’t get in trouble,” Moore said. “But Dr. King said, ‘It’s not enough to say it will get better by and by. Each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up, and speak out.’”
To get in “good trouble,” one must use the voice they were given to go against what has been set as standard. Fighting back against problematic norms is the catalyst of change.
Seattle MLK hosts a variety of events and workshops in addition to the annual Seattle MLK Jr. Day march each year, sometimes in the days leading up to the holiday. This year, a series of various workshops, which would normally be held at Garfield High School on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in conjunction with the march, will be held virtually. Virtual-workshop attendees can learn about different issues in King County and around the world.
“[This year] they’re gonna focus on basically white supremacy and all of its externalities and consequences,” Bobby Alexander, the vice chair, said.
These workshops help foster environments to comfortably learn, ask questions, and broach difficult but necessary conversations.
“I think this year is going to be very academic, and there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for people to learn how to be allies and understand all of the true impacts of systemic racism,” Alexander said.
Seattle MLK ends its week of workshops with their youth event. In years past, this would mean a fun evening of food, music, and dancing as a way to engage with the younger members of the community. This year, that will look different too.
The youth event is all about giving a platform to future leaders. More often than not, the youth do not receive the attention they deserve, Alexander said.
“A lot of times our focus is on people who are already in leadership or people who have influence,” Alexander said. “But if we really [are] honest with ourselves, the people who are going to be setting the agenda moving forward, we should probably hear.”
This year, two Seattle MLK interns put together a 45-minute video of “a series of interviews by young people, for young people,” Alexander said.
The video will be streaming on Rainier Avenue Radio from 2:30–3:30 p.m. on Jan.17.
This video intends to show the community that the youth have not only been paying attention, but they have ideas of what they want the world to become.
“Right now, young people are eating [up] everything that’s happening out in the streets. And I think it’s important that we ask them what they’re thinking about,” Alexander said.
The final hurrah is the march the following day. This year, the event has been completely moved outside to allow for social distancing. Everyone in attendance will be required to wear a mask, and if you are not feeling well, they urge you to stay home.
The march begins at 12 p.m. on Jan. 18 with a rally at Garfield High before taking to the streets.
For many attendees, the march represents a time to foster community and an opportunity to fight for what they believe is right.
“People leave our event with a different spirit than they came with,” Alexander said. “A lot of times, people come there with the weight of whatever the social issues are they’ve come to march for, and when they leave, they’re happy.”
And while Martin Luther King Jr. Day is only once a year, there are still many ways to get involved with the Seattle MLK Jr. Organizing Coalition.
The two most beneficial ways to support the coalition are to donate and to join their mentorship program. The program partners volunteers with youth in the community. It is an opportunity to provide support and community for young people who are missing that in their lives.
“The idea is that we don’t all win the parental lottery. Some of us have to learn those lessons from other people,” Alexander said. “And for those of us that have won the lottery and that do have the knowledge, you absolutely have a responsibility [to give back].”
If you are feeling like there is change you want to see in your community, Moore urges you to reach out to the organizations around you.
“I would encourage anybody at least who has a heart for the city, especially with the gentrification and what’s going on, to get involved, if it’s not with us, it’s somewhere,” Moore said.
Whether it is participating in marches, donating, or volunteering, there are many ways to give back to your community and go get into some good trouble.
The Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Organizing Coalition would like to give a special thanks to all the volunteers who work to make these events possible.
In addition to the Rainier Avenue Radio website, you can stream the youth event video on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitch. Read about what Seattle MLK is asking of march attendees in the name of COVID and community safety on the march and rally information web page. Learn more about and sign up for workshops on the 2021 workshops web page.
Chamidae Ford is currently a senior journalism major at the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. You can reach Chamidae Ford at IG/Twitter: @chamidaeford.
Featured Image: The 2019 Seattle MLK Jr. Day march. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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