January 19, 2009 in Idaho

Spokane MLK event draws close to 2,000

By The Spokesman-Review
J. Bart Rayniak photo

The Rev. P. Happy Watkins’ emotional recitation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech concluded the MLK Day program in the atrium of the INB Performing Arts Center before the estimated crowd of 1700 walked in a Unity March in downtown Spokane Monday, Jan. 19, 2009. Event co-chair Ivan Bush watches on.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Close to 2,000 people marched through the streets of Spokane Monday to celebrate the life of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., on the eve of the inauguration of the nation’s first black president.

“MLK Today Obama Tomorrow,” read a sign carried by one young boy. The flip side read: “We are witness to history.”

Another child’s poster simply read: “Dream BIG.”

Speakers wished King, who was killed in April 1968, a happy 80th birthday and thanked God for his work, which they credited with paving the way for Barack Obama to become president today.

Spokane’s first march to celebrate King’s life took place in 1980, said Ivan Bush, co-chairman of the planning committee for the celebration. On that day, the group walked from “the jailhouse to the courthouse and carried butcher-paper signs.”

“Now I look around. This is humbling. Look at us,” he said, scanning the audience, young and old, black and white, hanging over the balcony at the INB Performing Arts Center, sitting on its carpeted stairs, overflowing through the doors. “Not just black. Not just white. Not just Native. Not just Asian. Not just Latino. Look at us.”

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