Martin Luther King Day – Stand By Me

So, I got up early again yesterday for another long, but inspiring Martin Luther King Day Rally & March.  It was a really beautiful day (cold and clear), and the mountains in both directions (the Cascades and Olympics) were so gorgeous I wanted to get off the bus to take pictures of them.  No time though (or so I thought), and continued on.  On past Garfield High, the usual start of the rally & march, still under construction for the second year in a row.  Just a little further south, to Franklin High.

I did stop to take a photo of the sculpture near the pedestrian overpass, gleaming in the morning sunlight.  Also, an sign with an inspiring quote by Martin Luther King: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  Past the gym, where the rally would be later, on to the main school, past a collection of key sculptures.  Inside other groups were setting up their tables, before the morning’s workshops at 9:30. 

Alas, I had no table, even though I did have some of the Amnesty International literature.  Our group leader, Aaron, was running late.  Finally, he got there, and we set up our table.  We had only a little over an hour left, and the workshops were already going on; but we collected signatures for the freedom of Shi Tao, a journalist imprisoned in China because his internet information was given up by Yahoo!, and for justice for Troy Davis, on death row in Georgia, whose case is on appeal.  We also handed out flyers for our upcoming film festival, Feb. 13 – 17, and the Feb. 2 benefit concert at the High Dive that KEXP’s Audioasis is throwing for the festival.

Aaron offered to take down the table, so I headed over to the gym.  The rally had already started (and I must have missed a few speakers).  There were more to come, though.  Among our speakers were King County Council Member Larry Gossett and Congressman Jim McDermott.  Then Larry Gossett introduced us to the young students who were involved in the 1968 sit in at Franklin High, including himself, and the teacher at Franklin who supported them at the time, Roberto Maestas, founder and current Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza.  See Larry’s biography on HistoryLink to learn more!  That was also one of the more intriguing workshops going on earlier while we were tabling.

Oscar Eason, former President of the Seattle NAACP headed up the fundraising section of the rally accompanied and followed by gospel and other inspirational music.  Then a group of students from Foster High talking about a more recent walk out and forming a black student union.

Then Redwolf Pope, from the United Indians of All Tribes, talked about how the denial of tribal sovereignty over crimes involving non-natives allowed white men to get away rape of Native American women on tribal land, something documented by Amnesty International’s report Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA.  Part of a long, sad history including children being taken away from families and put in boarding schools where they were abused. scarring generations.

A member of the Veterans for Peace told us of the continued government harassment of Lt. Ehran Watada, now not allowed to leave the Army after his service time is up.  Lt. Watada spoke at last year’s rally while they were trying to court marshall him.

Then the inspirational kid.  You know, the one who can make a speech so inspiring he can move a gymnasium full of adults.  The one you’re sure will be mayor, or maybe President, by the time you’re collecting social security (well, if it exists; we’ll be lobbying him about that!).  The one that makes you think, what was I doing at that age. . .  Yeah, the future!

The blessing, was to be given by the Somali clergyman.  Yet, we learned more, as he told us of U.S. involvement in the war over there.  One that’s been forgotten.  As was the invocation, which was then given by a clergy woman.

Signs were handed out on the way out, as the first rally was over, and it was time for the marchAaron was waiting, for our fellow AI marchers, with the banner prominently displayed on the hill.  Where no one could have missed us, if they were there (and not marching with another group). . ., but we were it, and me a shutter bug!  Luckily, Aaron had the banner on a stick, so one person could carry it. . .

We were marching right in front of the marching band playing playing Mardi Gras and peace & justice favorites – from Masters of War and Down by the Riverside to Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (a depression era song) and When the Saints Come Marching In

We marched to Martin Luther King Park for another rally.  The water in the fountain was frozen, but Aaron is from Minnesota and just wearing a long sleeved shirt and t-shirt.  He suggested we go to the top of the amphitheater with the banner.

Speakers at the second rally included NAACP President James Bible, a hip hop DJ and Redwood Pope, this time talking about a chance to testify on Thursday in Olympia on the sovereignty issue.

After the rally, the crowd disbursed, most of us heading back to Franklin for food.  Aaron took the banner to the car.  I took a look at the line, and decided I needed to slip around the back way to use the girls room.  I had a chance to say hi to Larry Gossett, who I ran into in the hall.  Snapped a picture of the lunch line before going out to join the end of it.  I had my doubts, even though Larry had urged us all to go back there after the rally, as there was food for 2,000 (and fish as well as fried chicken, deep frying being, unfortunately, bad for me these days).  I ran into Jane from the Seattle Federation for a Democratic China and then Aaron joined us in line.  Alas, they ran out of food just as we got there!  It was worth it, though, for the acapella version of Stand By Me that broke out in the lunch line!

 Photos of the day in my MLK Day Seattle 2008 photo album on my Flickr page.



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