On April 4, 1968, a single shot changed history. The world lost the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the spokesman of the Montgomery bus boycott and the moral leader of a generation. King also left us his dream that one day we would be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin.
As a society, we have made strides in reaching the promised lands depicted in the Reverend’s dream, but we have a ways to go. The Seattle MLK, Jr. Organizing Coalition (SMLKOC) has made it our goal to create an event that not only highlights the Reverend’s accomplishments through our march and rally but also helps our community in different ways. We offer a job fair aimed at supporting disenfranchised communities, a youth art showcase and community workshops where attendees can find local groups they value. To understand how the SMLKOC came to be such a staple in the community, we have to look at our past from the view of a founder of the march and rally.
Eddie Rye, Sr. had this to say: “I find it imperative that I share the history of the committee, which came about as a result of a Jan. 15, 1983 nationwide demonstration demanding that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday become a National Holiday. In Seattle we were supporting the call for a MLK holiday and protesting the city of Seattle’s refusal to put up MLK signs on Empire Way after the city approved the name change. A lawsuit filed by merchants on the south of Rainier held up placing the signs for over a year, until the Washington State Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 30, 1983 that the city of Seattle had the authority to change the name to honor Dr. King. Efforts led by Nancy San Carlos — yes, a White woman — called for and organized a boycott and formed the ‘Coalition for Respect’ (which I had the honor of co-chairing with her) to visibly confront the merchants who filed the lawsuit responsible for holding up the MLK name change.
At the 1999 Seattle MLK event, a motion was passed and approved by 2,500 rally attendees to change the name of the county to honor MLK, since 14 years later there was nothing to indicate that this was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. County. King County Councilman Larry Gossett was charged with executing the legislative strategy to officially change the name.”
It has been 51 years since we lost Dr. King Jr. and yet, when we turn on our television, the same issues he talked about prevail in our society. The coalition says enough is enough, and we will no longer sit idly by as our president, government and country trample on us — roses that have grown from the concrete. This year’s theme is Affirmative Action=Justice. The organization has decided to dedicate the rally and march to Initiative-1000 efforts to repeal I-200, Washington’s ban on affirmative action. Since I-200 has gone into effect, small, women- and minority-owned businesses have lost more than $3.5 billion in state contracts. Simultaneously, higher education institutions in Washington have seen decreased student and staff diversity. I-1000’s mission is to enable every qualified Washington citizen, regardless of race, gender, disability or military status to be protected from discrimination when seeking opportunities in education, employment or public contracting.
SMLKOC is rooted in its history of challenging the status quo and we aim to keep this tradition alive in 2019. Our phenomenal executive team consists of Jean Buskin, KL Shannon, Shaudé Moore and Tana Yasu, the first executive team made up of women.
This has been a pivotal year for the organization; our first woman to chair, stronger and broader outreach to youth, an updated website seattlemlkcoalition.org and social media presence!
We are asking the community to join us on Jan. 21 at 8:30 a.m. at Garfield High School. We want everyone involved and engaged so please attend, volunteer and donate every little bit helps.
Abiel Woldu is the coalition webmaster and Eddie Rye Jr. co-founded the Rally and March in 1983.
Read the full Jan. 9 - 15 issue.
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