Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Over 1,000 Gather for MLK Rally & March in Downtown Detroit

Hundreds flock to MLK rally, protest war

South End Newspaper, WSU, Detroit
Markeysha Davis
Contributing Writer

Hundreds of Detroiters gathered at Central United Methodist Church Monday afternoon to remember and live the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and protest for an end to the war in Iraq.

The fourth annual Martin Luther King Day Rally and March attracted protesters of every age and every walk of life to the church.

Event chair Abayomi Azikiwe said that the purpose of the event was not only a birthday celebration for King, but also as an event used to highlight the struggle against the war in Iraq and the need to redirect war spending to struggling urban areas and people in poverty in the United States.

“We feel that billions of dollars have been wasted on this war,” Azikiwe said. “They need to reinvest in the cities.”

According to Azikiwe, King, at the time of his death, opposed the Vietnam War and spoke against the need for war to solve world problems.

“Dr. Martin Luther King’s anti-war and social justice legacies are often left out of media portrayals of him,” he said. “We want to resurrect this quality of him.”

The Rev. Ed Rowe of Central United Methodist Church acted as master of ceremonies during the rally. He said that the importance of having the rally in the sanctuary of the church was that, only 20 days before his assassination, King had preached on the church’s pulpit. He encouraged attendees to become active in nonviolent protest in memory of King.

“He was a prophet of hope and one of the most important prophets not only in the United States but in the world,” Rowe said. “Let us be liberators. Let us remember there was a day when we were called out. Now this is a day when we need to call each other out.”

Detroit political figures were among the many supporters to address the rally, which was standing-room only by the time the event commenced.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., was a special guest speaker at the event. Conyers introduced legislation for the King birthday observance to Congress only days after his assassination and in 1983, 15 years after King’s death, President Ronald Reagan approved the holiday.

Conyers, a follower and friend of King, was endorsed by the civil rights leader during one of his visits to Central United Methodist Church. Having experienced life before and after King’s assassination, he stressed the importance of remembering not only the man but his beliefs.

“Dr. King’s lessons were not just for the 1960s or 1950s or 1970s,” Conyers said. “They were for all time.”

Keynote speaker Marianne Williamson spoke about being a child when King was assassinated and what his legacy meant to her today.

Williamson said that it is important that spiritual followers of King take his preaching of nonviolence into their own lives and become their own activists in his absence.

“I was thinking that Martin Luther King would be 78 today,” she said. “Even if he had lived, it would be time for him to rest. Like he was, we must be strong in our political activism, but we must be spiritual activists as well.

“Dr. King did not say ‘I need to like my enemy.’ He said ‘I need to love my enemy.’”

After many speeches, time was taken out of the event to honor Bishop Thomas Gumbleton with the 2007 Spirit of Detroit Award. Gumbleton, 76, is a life-long Detroiter, activist and has been the spiritual leader of St. Leo’s Church in Detroit for 23 years.

Upon receiving his award, he began speaking against the war in Iraq.

“War always leaves behind a trail of resentment that makes us forget why we started in the first place,” Gumbleton said. “War makes no sense. It’s evil.”

Some marchers were not phased by the attention or by the cold wind and light ice rain.

Friends Aimee Cox and Courtney and Adam Burkette of Detroit braved the cold with the Burkettes’ one-year-old son, Hudson, saying that the meaning of the march was more important than the circumstances.

“This is not my first rally or march, nor is it his first,” Courtney Burkette said of her son.

Cox said that she came out to march because society has made some progress but not enough.

“Some people feel like they are doing something by writing and blogging, but it’s not enough,” she said. “We need to be out here marching.”

Metro protests, services honor leader's message

January 16, 2007

A light, chilly drizzle didn't stop hundreds of people from a march honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday in downtown Detroit.

In marking the holiday, some marchers also gave a nod to King's opposition to war, namely the Vietnam conflict, by stating their desire for President George W. Bush to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.

They sang the civil rights anthem, "We Shall Overcome," and shouted chants such as "Money for schools not for war!" and "Bring the troops home!" as they walked a circuit, passing Cobo Hall twice and attracting glances from people going to the North American International Auto Show.

" I'm opposed to the war, and this is a way of voicing that opposition," said George Corsetti, 64, of Detroit.

Lyn Scharret, 48, of Southfield said she wanted to honor King and his message of nonviolence. "I think the world can change through peace."

Others participated out of a desire to continue the progress that has been made since the civil rights movement.

Earlier at a rally at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, an estimated 1,000 people heard speeches from the church's pastor, the Rev. Ed Rowe, U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.,, author Marianne Williamson,Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, Rosendo Delgado of Latinos Unidos de Michigan, and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.

"The spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King lives on," Williamson said. "It can't be felled by an assassin's bullet as long as it lives in us."

King was assassinated April, 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

SOUTHFIELD: Granholm on diversity

Southfield's King event, began with a Peace Walk, but around 10:45 a.m., the walkers joined a crowd of many more people at the Southfield Pavilion, filling up the vast space to listen to music by the Southfield-Lathrup and Southfield High school choirs.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm made a brief, but powerful, call for diversity and the need for education, which she called the key to turning around Michigan's economy.

"Diversity is a moral issue, but it's an economic issue, too," she said. "If we don't have a diverse workforce prepared by diverse universities, our work will be hard."

Granholm called the limits on affirmative action, passed by voters in November, a barrier.

"We shall overcome this, too."

ANN ARBOR: Proposal 2 protested

Shouting "Jim Crow, hell no!" and "Undo Prop 2!" about 200 people marched in support of affirmative action Monday on the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus.

The march, timed to coincide with the King holiday and organized by the group By Any Means Necessary, was punctuated by brief confrontations with a half-dozen members of Young Americans for Freedom, which supported Proposal 2. The state constitutional amendment, which passed overwhelmingly, bans the use of racial or gender preferences in public institutions, including university admissions.

"It's Martin Luther King Day and BAMN does not represent Martin Luther King as he would have intended it," said Andrew Boyd, 20, of Muskegon, a Young Americans for Freedom cochairman and U-M sophomore.

But BAMN supporters said their protest was exactly what King would have done if he were alive.

"I respect Dr. King and I believe in that they're doing here today," said marcher Jim Kopf, 50, of Ann Arbor.

Both groups carried signs and megaphones and circled the central campus, ending with a rally on the Diag.

BAMN is demanding that there be no drop in under-represented minority enrollment in the state's universities despite Proposal 2. The U-M announced last week that it will no longer use race or gender as factors in admissions, in adherence with the law.

MACOMB COUNTY: Commissioner honored

Politicians, judges, students and others filled the Mirage Banquet Center in Clinton Township to honor former county Commissioner Bobby Hill.

The Macomb County Ministerial Alliance's second annual MLK Jr. breakfast paid tribute to Hill, who retired Dec. 31 after 16 years in office. He was the first and only black county commissioner.

Hill was in a car crash in October 2005 en route to his Mt. Clemens condo from Clinton Township. A tire on his vehicle blew out and he careened into a utility pole. He suffered head injuries and broken ribs, a broken hip and hand and two broken vertebrae.

"This is a real source of encouragement to me as I try to get over this illness from that accident," he said Monday. "This has been the highlight of my life."

The event also honored Judge Sheila Miller of 41B District Court, who took the bench eight months ago as the first black judge in the county.

"Being the first African-American judge in Macomb County, to me, means that all of us can raise our expectations ... about what justice means and the ways justice is administered," she said.

OAK PARK: Get involved

At an assembly at Oak Park High School, Heaster Wheeler, head of the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP, challenged the audience of about 300 to think about their funerals. What, he asked, do they want said about their lives?

"Get involved," Wheeler said. "Don't you dare apologize for being committed to a cause, to yourselves."

Kya Fisher, a 14-year-old student at Hally Magnet Middle School in Detroit, came to the Oak Park assembly with a friend. She said that she could've been doing any number of other things Monday, but "the day was to acknowledge" King, "so we put it to good use recognizing him," Fisher said.

"We're struggling on many points of the American dream. You know the 'I Have a Dream' speech? We haven't accomplished those goals."

Copyright © 2006 Detroit Free Press Inc.

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