MLK’s dream alive for today’s generation

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Posted Tue, Feb 18, 2014

A participant in Denver's 2014 Martin Luther King Marade holds a picture of King, saying "I have a dream," on Jan. 20.   Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu

A participant in Denver’s 2014 Martin Luther King Marade holds a picture of King, saying “I have a dream,” on Jan. 20. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu]

DENVER – Thousands of Denverites gathered On Jan. 20, 2014 in City Park to celebrate and honor Dr. King, who was killed April 4, 1968.  Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, former Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb and other civic leaders spoke not only of King’s sacrificial work for Civil Rights, but of the need for today’s generation to understand who King was, why the Civil Rights Movement is an important part of our past, and to carry the work forward.

In front of King’s statue at City Park, Mayor Michael Hancock proclaimed Jan. 20, 2014 as the Honorable Wilma J. Webb day in gratitude for her work to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday.  Webb introduced and carried the bill that former Gov. Dick Lamb signed into law in March 1984, making Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official Colorado holiday.

Hickenlooper told the diverse crowd that King addressed the same human issues our state is dealing with today – basic rights of equality in housing, jobs, homelessness, education and healthcare.

Thousands streamed into Denver on Colfax Avenue during the city's 2014 Martin Luther King Marade on Jan. 20.   Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu

Thousands streamed into Denver on Colfax Avenue during the city’s 2014 Martin Luther King Marade on Jan. 20. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu]

Hickenlooper quoted King, saying, “’Life’s persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others,’ right, and if you boil it down, that’s what he stood for.”

Wilma J. Webb spoke of not only King’s battle to end segregation in the South, but his fight for jobs, housing, and food for the poor and to end the war in Vietnam.  She said, “He was a living example for all of us and what we ought to be … All of the kinds of things that he fought for in his day are still the things that we should fight for in our day, plus the things that are going on now.”

In Denver, his is a holiday in transition.  It is both looking back to honoring those who gave their very lives that today’s children could taste equality and opportunity, and knowing that though our society has made progress in civil rights, the battle continues, and it will be fought by the children of today. 

Vern L. Howard, chairman of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission, said, “See, understand we wouldn’t need civil rights if we respected each other’s human rights.”

Former mayor of Denver, Wellington E. Webb, speaks to the crowd gathered at City Park prior to the 2014 Marade on Jan. 20.   Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu

Former mayor of Denver, Wellington E. Webb, speaks to the crowd gathered at City Park prior to the 2014 Marade on Jan. 20. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu]

Howard said the marade celebrates how far we’ve come, but it is also a demonstration because of things that still need to be accomplished.

The crowd flowed out of City Park and down East Colfax Avenue, toward Civic Center Park.  Hundreds lined the streets, cheering as the marade passed by.

Some participants were old enough remember when the civil rights battle was at the forefront of American discourse. 

Hancock spoke of those days, saying, “The path to the ballot box is paved with blood by those who said, ‘Get on my back, I’ll carry you forward.'”

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said he remembered where he was when he learned King had been assassinated.  But Hogan warned that the time when many still recall those days will not last long. 

“I’m not going to be on this earth that much longer. But what we have to ensure is that this dream goes on, and this focus goes on … and it will be carried forth by the children,” Hogan said.

Former Denver mayor, Wellington E. Webb slipped back into his former role as a professor, saying, So many of you were so young that when the battle was fought, you weren’t born yet.  But you knew you were supposed to be here today.”

Mr. Webb stressed the importance of today’s youth knowing the history of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  “You need to know who’s on the sculpture.  I asked some kids out front – I heard all kinda names.  Tu Pac ain’t on the sculpture, ok? Harriet Tubman ain’t on the sculpture. King is standing on the shoulders of those people that he respected and admired, which is, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth.”

A supporter shows his support as the Marade moves down Colfax Avenue on  Jan. 20.   Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu

A supporter shows his support as the Marade moves down Colfax Avenue on Jan. 20. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu]

Hancock concurred, saying, “It’s important that you educate yourself on your history. … The further we get away from our history, the less we want to honor those who made it possible for us to do the things we’re doing today.  But also, we lose focus on why we’re trying to make things better for the next generation.  And so, each generation must pave the path for next generation to follow.”

Karius Cross of Denver, part of the color guard leading the Marade, said he grew up in Chicago during that era.  He could recall when Dr. King was assassinated, the rioting, and a society divided by racial lines.  Cross said the marade is now a symbol of “American freedom.”

“This is why we celebrate every year – Martin Luther King – is to let the younger generation know.  See us older generation, we lived through that era.  And the younger generation is kind of separated from that, so we want to always continue to remind them that the fruits of our forefathers’ that paid the price for the freedom that they have today.”

Hancock spoke of those who walked with Dr. King, “who put on their shoes and faced all danger to say, ‘We shall, and we will overcome.’  They stood.  They took the rocks and the bomb threats.  But they would not give up.  You see they knew that children – many of us who are here, would be born shortly, and that we would get to stand on their shoulders.”

 

Go Box Marade

 

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About Melanie J. Rice

Melanie Rice is a journalism student at MSU Denver, with an emphasis on both visual and written content.

View all posts by Melanie J. Rice

One Response to “MLK’s dream alive for today’s generation”

  1. Tommy Trask
    Tommy Trask Says:

    Great article Melanie!

    Reply

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