YAKIMA, Wash. — Freezing temperatures and a dismal gray sky couldn’t keep people away from the 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace March on Monday.
“It’s good to see people keep Dr. King’s spirit alive in any condition,” Steve Mitchell told participants in a program that followed the march. Mitchell is CEO of Opportunities Industrialization Center of Washington and one of the organizers of the event.
Organizers said about 250 participated in this year’s event, which is down from past years. But the lower turnout didn’t dampen people’s spirits during the milelong march along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Some sang a rousing rendition of “We Shall Overcome,” a popular song during the civil rights movement, while others marched with signs reading, “We stand together” and “Learning to live as one.”
Eight-year-old Kayle Jones, a third-grader at Terrace Heights Elementary School, said she’d been participating in other activities to recognize King’s work, including performing rap songs about him during music class.
For the march, she wore construction paper signs reading, “Happy birthday” and “You made your dream come true.”
“We’re celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday and the dream he had,” she said.
Maira Prieto, a 20-year-old student at Yakima Valley Community College, participated in the march for the first time in several years. She, with the help of her husband and brother, made a sign with a charcoal drawing of King next to one of his quotes: “We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.”
For Prieto, that summed up why it was important for her to participate in Monday’s march.
“If everyone can’t get along, it would be chaos,” she said. “We’ve seen this in other parts of the world.”
And while Monday’s event was about celebrating King’s legacy, organizers also reminded participants of the challenges still ahead. A panel of representatives from several nonprofit organizations highlighted several issues, including domestic violence, homelessness, bullying and health inequality, still plaguing the community.
“Let us honor Dr. King’s legacy with selflessness and by serving one another,” said David Rolfe, executive director of Safe Yakima Valley Communities, who participated in Monday’s panel.
Mitchell, of OIC of Washington, reinforced the panel’s call to action.
“We do have time to get together and solve the problems in our community,” he said.
• Mai Hoang can be reached at 509-759-7851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.