Northwest NEWS

January 14, 2002

Features

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

by Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Reporter
   He stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee when suddenly the crack of a rifle shot rang out. Immediately, a bullet struck him in the neck. The evening before he had delivered a speech at the Mason Street Temple to prepare striking black sanitation workers and their supporters for a march the following day. The workers were striking for equal pay and he was visiting Memphis to lend his support. On this night, he was late for a dinner and had just stepped onto the balcony in front of his room when the rifle blast split the air. People in the courtyard began screaming when they realized he was wounded. Someone called an ambulance and he was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital.
   It was April 4, 1968 and later that evening, Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech in Indianapolis. He stated, "I have bad news for you, for all our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight. Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort."
   King, a Baptist minister, is remembered as a dominant force in the civil rights movement from 1957 to 1968. As president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he sought to assist other communities in organizing nonviolent protest campaigns against discrimination. His decision to join the sanitation worker's strike was one of King's numerous efforts to focus on the plight of the poor.
   Wherever he spoke, he brought a message of peace, equality and justice to a divided people. He called for love and understanding between the races. In his well known "I have a dream" speech, he spoke of his dream for America as a symbol of freedom where people of all races, creeds and nationalities could live together as a "beloved community." His sermons spoke of his basic philosophy to love others. In one of his sermons he said, "Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies."
   Fifteen years after King's death, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law making the third Monday of January a national holiday in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. But before the bill passed, there were those who opposed the idea of a holiday honoring King. Many felt there were other prominent Americans who also deserved a national holiday, such as John F. Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln. Some feared the cost of paying over-time to federal workers who would work the holiday as well as regular time to federal employees who would have the day off. Senator Bob Dole addressed the critics saying, "I suggest they hurry back to their pocket calculators and estimate the cost of 300 years of slavery, followed by a century or more of economic, political and social exclusion and discrimination."
   It took years before the House of Representatives and the Senate finally decided to sign a bill into law making King's birthday a national holiday. The first celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day took place Jan. 20, 1986.
   This year, the holiday is observed on Monday, Jan. 21 and programs in the Northshore area, and beyond, will commemorate King's life.
   A sample of what some of the schools have scheduled includes a student produced video presentation at Leota Junior High. The video will show clips of King's speeches interspersed with students speaking about their own part in the diversity of the school. The video will air over the school's in-house news channel. Inglemoor High also plans to show an in-school video dealing with the ideals King stood for.
   On the 25th the school will hold an assembly focusing, in part, on characteristics King demonstrated in leadership and respect and how students can apply the characteristics to their lives.
   The Northshore Adult Day Center in Bothell will host an informative lecture and documentary video about King's life and his accomplishments, Friday, Jan. 18. The Day Center has held a program to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day for the past three years. Participants, as well as their caregivers and families, are invited to attend this year's program.
   Also on Jan. 18, YMCA Northshore will join the YMCA of Greater Seattle in a celebration at the Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.. The public is invited to the event where they will enjoy a buffet dinner and hear Carl Mack speak on the life of Dr. King.
   The event will feature Pat Wright and The Total Experience Gospel Choir, plus words and works of YMCA teens.
   In addition to celebratory programs, Gov. Gary Locke is asking Washington State citizens to pay tribute to King by taking part in a service project on Jan. 21.
   Students, faculty and staff at the University of Washington, Bothell and Cascadia Community College will honor King's commitment to social change by participating in community service through volunteer opportunities with United Way. Gov. Locke will also spend the holiday working on a community project.
   In a letter to the state's citizens, he wrote, "Service to others is a bond that unites us. Please join me in making the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday 'A day on, not a day off ... remember, celebrate, act.'"
   For those interested in attending the event at the Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA, RSVP Amy White, Sr. Youth Development Director, at 206-522-1942 or e-mail aewhite@seattleschools.org.