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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream’: Spokane community comes together to honor MLK and his legacy

Last week, the Spokane NAACP got “a very alarming email,” chapter president Lisa Gardner told a crowded ballroom at the Spokane Convention Center on Monday.

A Spokane Valley school was planning to end hosting their Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly.

“As you can imagine, of course, we were distraught,” Gardner said. “We were upset. We were flabbergasted, to say the least.”

Martin Luther King Jr. has long epitomized the historic and ongoing fight for equality in the United States, she said.

Administrators said students simply weren’t interested in the late civil rights activist, Gardner said, declining to share the name of the school.

There’s a push nationwide to remove Black history from schools, she said, and it’s easy to think those issues won’t hit close to home.

“We think, ‘Oh, it’s not going to happen to us,’ ” Gardner said. “Oh, yes, it is.”

After the NAACP’s pushback, the assembly happened, but it served as a reminder for Gardner and the community to stay vigilant.

“Parents, community, aunties, uncles, grandparents, we have to stay vigilant in ensuring that our students not just on MLK Day, not just on MLK weekend, not just in January, not just in February, we must understand that our students must learn about MLK every day,” Gardner said. “They assassinated that man. We cannot let them assassinate his legacy.”

The hundreds who gathered to celebrate King’s namesake holiday cheered.

The speakers and subsequent march – organized largely by Freda Gandy, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center, to honor King and his legacy – drew a diverse crowd. From families with small children to those using walkers, many found unity in King’s message of freedom and equality.

Some marchers carried handmade signs through downtown Spokane.

Juslene Mizerimana, 15, made signs with her friends at Calvary Baptist Church on Sunday.

One depicts King giving his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, while others spelled out MLK Day in bold colors. It was Mizerimana’s first time attending the celebration.

Carolyn Johnson, youth director at Calvary Baptist, said it’s important to bring young people to the event to help teach them about their history.

Cheryl Carson, a chaperone from the church, nodded in agreement.

“It’s very important to me to know the history and see the history and witness the children become a part of the history,” Carson said.

“It was pretty empowering,” Darrion Fleck, 22, said of the event.

His friend, 22-year-old Marquise Hilton, agreed. Seeing such a big turnout, especially from the white community, meant a lot, he said.

Stephy Nobles-Beans, a motivational speaker, gave the last remarks Monday. She encouraged the crowd that, despite how dire things can feel in the world, they can keep fighting and make a difference.

“You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream,” she said, quoting King. “There’s a need for us to continue to lead the charge, to continue the dream that such an amazing man left us.”