The Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Organizing Coalition celebrates “40 Years of Continuing King’s Mission”
by Susan Fried
After two years of being unable to use Garfield High School due to pandemic restrictions, the Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Organizing Coalition took full advantage of access this year. On the 40th anniversary of the MLK March and Rally on Monday, Jan. 16, the coalition hosted a jobs fair, workshops, and a huge rally in the high school gym. The weather turned out to be beautiful for the thousands of people who marched from Garfield, with a brief stop at the King County Juvenile Detention Center, to Jimi Hendrix Park by the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) where another small rally was held.
Despite the omicron variant surge, hundreds of people, including lots of families and children, came out for the 40th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Rally and March on Jan. 17 at Garfield High School. This year’s theme was Truth in Education NOW. Many of the issues King was dealing with in his lifetime are still present today, including voting rights, workers’ rights, and income inequality, and those issues were touched on by several of the speakers and by the signs carried in the march.
The annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. March and Rally will take place on Monday morning, Jan. 17, beginning at 11 a.m. at Garfield High School.
Please remember that the Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Organizing Coalition, as always, desires that as many people as possible join us for the 40th straight year that we are hosting a community salute and tribute to MLK Jr.’s marvelous effort to bring about racial and economic justice for all people in the United States.
Seattle is about as far as you can get from Atlanta, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born and led this country’s civil rights movement. But Seattle activist Larry Gossett would argue no city compares to Seattle’s fervor for celebrating Dr. King:
“Remember, y’all: No other citizenry from any city in our country, has been as able as Seattle’s activists — especially its Black, other People of Color, and progressive white community leaders — in attracting thousands of folks from all walks of life to come together every year to pay tribute to Dr. King’s legacy.”
The Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Day march and accompanying events, hosted by Seattle MLK Jr. Organizing Coalition (Seattle MLK), is one of the longest-running MLK Jr. Day celebrations in the country. This year, Seattle MLK adapted to the realities of COVID-19 and, instead of the usual job fair and rally held inside Garfield High School, the 39th-annual event was held entirely online and outside. In-person events on January 18 began in the parking lot in front of Garfield High with a rally that included a speech by Sean Goode, executive director of Choose 180 — an organization designed to help keep youth out of the criminal justice system — as well as performances by singers Sydney Coleman and Nyshae Griffin, and a presentation of a plaque honoring long-time Seattle MLK committee member, Tony Orange, given to his wife. Then, about a thousand people marched downtown to 4th Avenue and held another small rally.
On their way downtown, the marchers stopped briefly at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic to show respect for Dr. Ben Danielson, the former senior medical director there, who recently resigned due to allegations of institutional racism at parent organization, Seattle Children’s Hospital. The marchers then continued down Yesler Way to 4th Ave. where another small rally was held, highlighting and critiquing the juvenile justice system, with speeches by civil rights attorney Sadé Smith and performances by D’Mario Carter and E-Rich.
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.