Tuesday, January 26, 2010

MLK Day in Detroit Serves as Springboard for Ongoing Struggles

MLK Day in Detroit Serves as Springboard for Ongoing Struggles

Rally and march calls for jobs, peace and justice

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

DETROIT—On January 18 over 1,000 people gathered at the historic Central United Methodist Church for a rally and march in downtown Detroit to honor the 81st birthday of the martyred civil rights and anti-war activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year represented the seventh annual demonstration in the city which recognizes the peace and social justice legacy of Dr. King.

One of the keynote speakers for this year’s commemoration was Rev. Edward Pinkney, the president of the Benton Harbor Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a recently-released political prisoner who served one year in detention for quoting biblical scriptures that were falsely interpreted by a Berrien County judge as a threat to another jurist’s life.

Pinkney addressed the rally and emphasized that the legacy of Dr. King was very much alive and well. Pinkney outlined the details of his case and its relationship to the struggle against racism and police brutality in Benton Harbor.

Another keynote speaker at the MLK rally and march was Rev. Thomas Smith, pastor of the Monumental Baptist Church in the historic Hill District of Pittsburgh. Smith focused most of his speech on the humanitarian crisis facing Haiti, which was hit by an earthquake on January 12.

Smith is also a leading member of the Inter-religious Foundation for Community Organizations/Pastors for Peace (IFCO). The organization challenges the U.S. blockade against Cuba every year by transporting material aid to the Caribbean nation located just 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

Smith in conjunction with the Bailout the People Movement (BOPM) organized the National March for Jobs in Pittsburgh in September 2009 that kicked-off the protests surrounding the G20 Summit which was held in that same city.

Sponsors of this year’s MLK Day events included City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, who co-sponsored the event along with the Detroit MLK Day Committee, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI), the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, UAW Local 2334, the Matrix Theatre Company, Swords Into Plowshares, the Catholic Pastoral Alliance, the Detroit Wobbly Kitchen, among others.

The event was co-chaired by Sandra Hines of MECAWI and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition.

Other speakers and participants included the Detroit Ludington Middle School Choir, organizers for the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), Maureen Taylor of the United States Social Forum (USSF) and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO), the Blaq Inc. Poets, Big A, Latinos Unidos and the Matrix Theatre puppets. The Detroit Wobbly Kitchen served over 350 meals to the march participants after they returned to the Church in the afternoon following the demonstration through downtown.

Building Support for Ongoing Struggles

The MLK Day events promoted various labor campaigns taking place in the Detroit metropolitan area. The ROC organizers have a major struggle where they are picketing a well-known restaurant for their unfair wage and labor practices. The Moratorium NOW! Coalition is still pressing for the declaration of an economic state of emergency in Detroit and the state of Michigan, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

The day after, January 19, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition intervened in a tenants struggle where the residents were illegally locked out of their apartments on Delaware in the New Center area because of the failure of a landlord to make electrical repairs on the building. The Coalition is seeking to have the landlord pay damages to the residents and assist in their re-location.

During the course of this campaign, Moratorium NOW! took the residents to the Detroit City Council to demand action from the City of Detroit. On January 26, the Coalition will go back to the City Council to request a resolution declaring an economic state of emergency in the city.

On February 3, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition will be taking people to Lansing to keep the issues of unemployment, foreclosures and evictions in the forefront of the state legislature and the governor. This action will coincide with the annual state of the state address delivered by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The Coalition will also be a co-sponsor for a statewide tour featuring FIST organizer Larry Hales during the week of February 1-5. The tour is designed to build the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education on March 4.

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