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Organizers seek to boost participation in the 2007 Martin Luther King Day events

With the vision of “every congregation marching with a banner” in the 2006 Martin Luther King, Jr., Day March, Ivan Bush exclaimed in his call to the faith community:  “It would be beautiful!”

MLK Day 07
Ivan Bush and the Rev. Happy Watkins

The Martin Luther King celebrations in Spokane span two days, beginning with the commemoration service at 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 14, at Holy Temple Church of God in Christ, 806 W. Indiana.  It will feature reflections and perspectives from faith, government and business leaders on the theme, “Rekindle the Light.”

The march begins with a rally at 10 a.m., Monday, Jan. 15, at the INB Performing Arts Center (former Opera House) and ends at Riverpark Square, where there will be guest speakers, performing artists and a community resource fair.

Ivan, who is equal opportunity officer for the Spokane School District, and the Rev. Percy “Happy” Watkins, pastor at New Hope Baptist Church, were both among the founders of the commemoration and march in 1984.

That year, 300 people overflowed Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and 49 joined in a march from the Public Safety Building to the Federal Building.

For three years the service filled First Presbyterian Church and then moved to the Lair at Spokane Community College.  A few years ago, it returned to First Presbyterian to reconnect its location with the faith roots.

The last few years, it has been held at Holy Temple Church of God in Christ.

The march and rally have grown from the few dozen to more than 2,000 in recent years.

For new and long-time clergy and nonprofit leaders, congregational leaders and other members, the resource fair provides an overview of community services and resources for outreach, referrals, volunteering and other connections.

Schools from Spokane, Spokane Valley and as far away as Colville, Walla Walla and even Canada, send groups,  Civic leaders also participate, said Ivan.

So for 2007, planners seek to “rekindle” the participation of the faith community.

“The victory in civil rights relates to goals of the faith community for people to love their neighbors and enemies, to work for peaceful resolution of conflicts and to believe in the positive power of prayer.

 “It’s important for those who have been committed to civil rights over the years to bring their children,” said Happy. 

 “The commemoration service and march are a reminder about King’s belief that children should have three meals a day to nourish their bodies, culture and education for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits,” he said

“It’s a time for us to recognize everyone—young and old, black, white, Indian, Hispanic Asian, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, babies in strollers, children holding hands, people from outlying communities,” said Happy, who goes around the region to give King’s “I Have a Dream” speech—from Lewiston, Idaho, to Cashmere, Wash.

Reaching school children, said Ivan, is particularly important, because young people were the leaders of the civil rights movement.

He added that the march is “a symbol of our collective journey, regardless of race, gender or circumstances.  It’s a journey of people coming together and laying aside differences to discover the likenesses we share and to celebrate our differences.

“To save the dream for one is to save it for all,” he said.

Happy said that he and others involved with the Martin Luther King programming are called on for assistance throughout the year.

“In addition to our going to schools, companies call us for conflict resolution related to hidden racism and name calling so we can help them with positive pressure,” he explained.  “We bring people together to the table to see how we can resolve tensions so they do not grow into fights.”

Happy said that Ivan has often said:  “We are involved in working to make a difference until making a difference will not make a difference any more, because we won’t see white or black, man or woman, rich or poor.”

Ivan reiterated the importance of having every congregationparticipate.

“We are making calls, sending out fliers and contacting regional offices to increase the participation of the faith community,” he said.

For information, call 455-8722.


Mary Stamp - The Fig Tree - © January 2007