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Martin Luther King, Jr., Day 2012 march is ‘a time to stand up and make a statement’


Ivan Bush
Ivan Bush



“This is a time to stand up and make a statement,” said Ivan Bush, co-chair of the Martin Luther King, Jr., planning committee for 2012 in Spokane. 

It’s “a statement year” because of the bombing attempted last year to thwart the values of Martin Luther King, Jr., to build racial equality, respect and understanding, he asserted.

Organizers of Spokane’s 2012 Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Rally and March anticipate that there will be a larger crowd than usual as an expression of solidarity.



The Rev. Happy Watkins
The Rev. Happy Watkins

The Rev. Happy Watkins, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, is co-chair of the planning committee with Ivan, who is equal opportunity officer for Spokane Public Schools.  They hope people will gather from Canada and surrounding communities, as well as Spokane, as in the past.  They also expect people to come from Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

The local Carpenters’ Union is providing placards so people can write their home towns or their church/faith affiliations on them, and hold them up during the rally and march.  The rally begins at 10 a.m., Monday, Jan. 16, at the old Convention Center, 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., across from the traditional meeting space in the Opera House.

That facility has space for more than 2,000, he said.

Ivan said that the crowd of marchers has grown from 49 the first year, 1984, to thousands, so many that more and more people have had to stand outside the Opera House entry.

With more people and some dignitaries, he said there will be more security.

Happy hopes that people will come out—as people of Superior, Mont., did when he went there in the 1980s to speak after a right wing, white supremacist group moved there from Chicago—to say “we will not tolerate this behavior and we value all our citizens.”

Ivan hopes more people will come to “celebrate the life and work of Dr. King, and rededicate their lives to carry out the principles for which he lived.”

The Rev. Stephen Thurston, pastor of New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago and president of the National Baptist Convention of America, will be the featured speaker for the community celebration and rally.

Several events are being planned.

At 6 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14, there will be a musical celebration, “Hear the Dream, Feel the Hope,” with male vocalists and musicians at Calvary Baptist Church, 508 E. Third.

The Commemorative Celebration at 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 15, is at Holy Temple Church of God in Christ, 806 W. Indiana.

Thurston, who will preach on “His Hope, His Dream: Our Responsibility,” is active in the Chicago chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was the youngest president in the National Baptist Convention’s history when he was elected in 2003. 

Civic leaders and clergy will also give presentations.

On Monday after the rally, marchers will walk to Riverpark Square for the Community Resource Fair and to the STA Plaza for the Children’s Resource Fair, both from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Last year, rally participants heard about plans for Martin Luther King, Jr., Way through the education district of Spokane.  This year, construction is nearly complete on the street, which runs from Division to Hamilton.

Happy also reported that the Martin Luther King, Jr., Family Outreach Center on Sherman St. is seeking a larger facility.

“We need more space, because there are more families wanting their children to be in the programs,” he said. 

“The center provides parents a safe place to bring their children for early childhood learning and development, after-school programs and the summer program,” he said.  “We have operated 23 years, leasing a former firehouse, which has no sprinkler system, from the City of Spokane.  In our new location, our plans for remodeling include a sprinkler system.”

Happy and Ivan also announced that they will turn over responsibility for planning the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day events to younger leaders.  They will step down as co-chairs of the planning committee after this year.

“We will mentor, but will let younger leaders take the mantle to the next level,” Ivan said.

Their next focus will be to help young men and women of color apply for and secure jobs, so they are not incarcerated in the numbers Happy sees at Airway Heights Correction Center.

For information, call 455-8722.