Rev. Dr. Lucius Walker of IFCO and Pastors for Peace was the keynote speaker at the Detroit Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events on Jan. 21, 2008. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe).
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Activists gather and demonstrate through downtown Detroit
Pan-African News Wire Correspondent
DETROIT, 21, Jan. 2008 (PANW)--Over a thousand Detroiters gathered for the Fifth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Rally and March with a special emphasis on the fight to the end racism, poverty and war. The event was held at the historic Central United Methodist Church where Dr. King gave one of his last sermons in March of 1968.
Rev. Dr. Lucius Walker delivered the keynote address at the gathering sponsored by the Detroit MLK Committee. Rev. Dr. Walker is the founder of the Inter-religious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) and Pastors for Peace. At present he is recruiting students in the United States to study medicine at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba. The New York-based minister has traveled to Cuba on many occasions to provide material assistance in defiance of the current economic blocade against the Caribbean nation.
The Detroit MLK Day event has become an institution in the city since being founded by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) in January of 2004. Today the gathering is organized by a broad-based committee that invites political, religious, labor and cultural organizations to co-sponsor the annual meeting that attempts to distinguish itself from other commemorations which do not reflect the degree of commitment to socio-economic justice and peace that Dr. King exemplified at the time of his assassination on April 4, 1968.
Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, hosted the rally at Central United Methodist Church. Azikiwe stated in his opening address that "Dr. King was assassinated some four decades ago and unfortunately many of the issues he addressed in 1968 are still with us today."
A video was shown at the beginning of the event featuring an interview with Dr. King and former television host Mike Douglas. The event featured students from the Detroit Public Schools who were the finalist in a citywide essay contest on the legacy of MLK.
Other speakers at the rally included: City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, John Donabedian of the Detroit MLK Committee, Gerado Espinoza and Elena Herrada of Centro Obrero, Sandra Hines and Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, Rosendo Delgado of Latinos Unidos, Rev. Robert Jones, the musicologist and radio producer of WDET, Judge Deborah Thomas of Wayne County Circuit Court, who was the recepient of the Detroit MLK Spirit of Detroit award as well as the City Council's Spirit of Detroit award.
A delegation from Vietnam was present at the rally where they expressed their solidarity with the legacy of Dr. King. The delegation was brought to the rally by Millie Hall, President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW).
Abayomi Azikiwe, the program host, stated that: "We are honored to have this delegation here today from Vietnam. Dr. King came out against the war in Vietnam one year prior to his assasination. Forty years ago this would not have been possible. Today Vietnam is free and united."
A work of art was created by Detroit artist and Wayne State University alumni Alice Smith for presentation to the 2008 Detroit MLK Day award recepient Judge Deborah Thomas. Resources for the development of the art work were provided by the WSU Department of Art.
Dayla Adams of Marquette Elementary was one of the finalist for the essay contest in honor of Dr. King. "It is a shame that racism still exist right here and right now in the United States of America," she stated to the enthusiastic crowd. Other winners of the student essay and art contest were Darius Kendricks of the West Side Academy, Channel Bryant and Chiara Woods.
A march was held through downtown Detroit where anti-war and social justice slogans were advanced. The demonstration went down Washington Blvd. to Jefferson passed the International Auto Show at Cobo Conference Center. The march then proceeded north on Woodward avenue back to Central United Methodist Church.
The afternoon portion of the Detroit MLK event included cultural presentations by the Mosaic Youth Theater, Rev. Robert Jones, Invicible and Detroit Summer.
On the second floor of the church a dinner was served by the Detroit Wobblies Kitchen and Food Not Bombs. The finale consisted of a hip-hop and spoken word concert featuring Markeeta Moore, Big "A" and Zahoski. The artists were introduced by Andrea Egypt of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI).
This year's Detroit Martin Luther King Day Rally & March was co-sponsored by a host of organizations from throughout the Detroit area. These groups included: the Catholic Pastoral Alliance, the Detroit City Council, Food Not Bombs, the Green Party of Michigan, the Detroit Wobbly Kitchen, Matrix Theater Company, that supplied puppets of MLK and Ella Baker for the march, John Mills, Olympia Entertainment, UAW Local 2334, the UAW Region 1A, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice and UAW Local 22.
Additional endorsers included: Advocates for Informed Non-Violent Social Change, Centro Obrero, Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Detroit Green Party, Latinos Unidos/United de Michigan, Michigan Coalition For Human Rights, St. Leo's Parish Community in Detroit and the Veterans for Peace.
Honorary co-chairs of the Detroit MLK Day 2008 event were Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Millie Hall, President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Erma Henderson, the retired former president of the Detroit City Council and Rev. Edwin Rowe, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church.
Editor's Note: Attached is the WXYZ Channel 7 News report on the Detroit MLK events aired live at Noon on Jan. 21, 2008