29th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. March and Celebration

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On December 1, 1955, a woman named Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  During the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott that followed, the movement was led in part by a 26-year-old Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr.  The Bus Boycott ended successfully for the African-American citizens of Montgomery, and is considered the beginning of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington in August 1963. (Photo by National Parks Service; public domain.)

Twelve years later, after the efforts to desegregate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the University of Mississippi; after the lunch-counter sit-ins; after the “Freedom Rides” through the South; after the campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama, which was opposed by fire hoses and attack dogs; after the August 1963 March on Washington in which King spoke of his dream of a nation without racism; after the Mississippi “Freedom Summer” and voter registration drives; after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act; after marchers in Selma, Alabama were beaten by state troopers and police on the Edmund Pettis Bridge; after King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; and after Watts, Detroit, and the dark days of riots in many U.S. cities–after all the successes and heartbreaks of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King lost his life to a gunman in Memphis, Tennessee, while leading a sanitation workers’ strike.

I write all this in preface to this announcement about the 29th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. March and Celebration in Sacramento, because I want to remind everyone why this nation–and I mean all of us, of all races–owes Dr. King such an enormous debt of gratitude.  Changing this country and ridding it of the shabby, mean, deplorable and cruel practices of segregation and racism, was (and still is) the work of thousands of brave, dedicated, and determined individuals.  However, the movement would have been vastly poorer without the leadership, powerful oratory, non-violent philosophy, and example of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Truly honoring the legacy of such a man would mean so much more than just taking one day a year as a holiday–it would mean dedicating ourselves all year long, in whatever way we can, to making our community a better one, for people of all races, colors, and creeds.

On Monday, January 18, the 29th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. March and Celebration will take place.  The day’s events begin with two marches:  One, from the south, begins with an opening ceremony at the Oak Park Community Center at 8:00 a.m.; then departs at 8:30, stopping at Sacramento City College at about 9:15; then leaves the College at about 9:30, going down 13th Avenue and north on Land Park Drive and 16th Street to P Street, turning west on P to 10th, up 10th to J Street, and turning right on J to 13th Street before arriving at the Sacramento Convention Center at about 11:30 a.m.  The North Area March begins at 8:30 a.m. at Grant High School, and goes directly downtown to the Convention Center.

Sacramentans march to honor--and celebrate--the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Annual March here in Sacramento in 2008.

For more information about participating in the March, please e-mail Thomas Burruss, March Coordinator, at tomburruss@comcast.net.   I’ve been to the March several times in past years; it’s very lively, and has floats, bands, and a wide variety of groups advocating on a range of social and political issues–so it’s really part march, part parade.  If you do not feel like walking with the March for the entire six miles, consider simply standing by the route, watching, and applauding your favorite bands, floats and groups as they go by.

The Celebration will take place at the Sacramento Convention Center at 13th and K Streets in downtown Sacramento, starting at 11:30 a.m.  A number of “cool and interesting” activities for all ages are planned, including:

A Multi-Cultural Talent Showcase (from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.);

An Education Village: Exhibits, movies, children’s artwork, and hands-on activities for pre-school through high-school-aged children;

Dramatic Arts: Three acts presenting three civil rights era vignettes;

Wisdom Corner/Poetry:  Hear seniors, community leaders, and others reminisce about the Civil Rights Movement; see videos, hear music, and listen to spoken word poetry.

In addition, at the Celebration participants can interact with employers, health professionals, small business vendors, and social advocates.  Participate and enjoy music, drama, and learning what you can do to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

For more information, visit www.mlk365.com, or call (916) 920-8655.

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