YAKIMA, Wash. — For the Rev. Rosetta Horne, the applause during a program in Yakima honoring Martin Luther King Jr. on his namesake national holiday was just too restrained.
“Come on — it’s a celebration today,” she said in a rousing voice, the crowd at the Yakima Convention Center responding with cheers and much louder clapping.
Horne, senior pastor of Abundant Life Ministries in Yakima, then led everyone in the words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” with its lyrics of faith, hope and victory.
Horne was among three speakers and several others who remembered King by honoring him and the difference he and his supporters made, along with urging vigilance to ensure a present and a future where everyone matters.
“The one thing we should remember — all people are created equal and deserve equal treatment,” said Steve Mitchell, chief executive officer of OIC Washington, in welcoming the crowd.
That event at the convention center followed the Martin Luther King Peace March. Participants began gathering at 11:30 a.m. at West Fifth Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard before the march began at noon, continuing down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Eighth Street and the convention center.
Earlier in the morning, those walking in the ninth annual Toppenish MLK Jr. Peace March left the parking lot of O’Reilly Auto Parts and Dollar Tree at 10:30 a.m. to make their way to Toppenish Middle School.
Though the morning was sunny, the morning chill lingered as participants skirted slick spots on the road and thin patches of ice along the curb and on the sidewalk. Many carried signs — “Don’t Let the Dream Die” and “Power to the People” among them — as they walked to Toppenish Middle School, the words of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech playing over loudspeakers mounted on a flatbed carrying students.
Kathleen Ross spoke during the program at Toppenish Middle School, among others, and members of the Toppenish High School and Middle School Band and the Toppenish High School Audition Choir performed.
In Yakima, the peace march also included a range of participants, including a 2-year-old girl enjoying a cozy ride in her stroller, students from Davis and Stanton Academy high schools and a Yakima resident for 50 years who was joining her first MLK Day march. Two men carried American and Mexican flags.
Joe Daniels, a Memphis native and Army veteran who moved to Yakima four years ago, was among those walking. Dressed in an impeccable white suit, he carried two signs he said testified to a yearlong dispute he’s had with Child Protective Services. Daniels occasionally stands at busy public intersections, including First Street and Yakima Avenue, with his signs.
More than 400 were expected to participate in the march, and Daniels was impressed with the turnout.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be that many people.”
Afterward, walkers filed into a large meeting room of the convention center as three drummers performed.
Gilbert Chandler, a 79-year-old native of Yakima, sat near Roy Thompson, who has lived here since the 1960s, he said.
“It’s been larger in past years,” said Chandler, who has helped write two histories of Yakima’s African-American community and its people. “The schools used to bus the kids in.”
Still, especially after Horne’s plea, the crowd responded with enthusiasm to belie its smaller numbers.
Several people were honored. Ryan McDaniel, principal of Davis, announced the winner of the Lee Paggett Food Drive Award, which was Gilbert Elementary, and then himself received a Spirit of the Dream Award.
Other recipients of Spirit of the Dream Awards were Erin Levy, Eli Huizar and Lyn Thorn, all Yakima Police Department school resource officers. They delivered gifts to three families in the Yakima area shortly before Christmas after collecting donations in order to purchase food items and presents for families who could use assistance during the holidays.
Steve Hill of OIC of Washington and attorney Sandra Rodriguez True were also honored with Spirit of the Dream Awards, as was the Rev. Robert Trimble, who was clearly surprised.
In words touched with emotion, Trimble thanked the committee and especially his friend and longtime community leader Henry Beauchamp, “Who pulled me out of the mud and said, ‘You can’t quit; you’ve got to go on, brother.’”
Following a performance by the Batang Wapato Youth Folk Dancers, speakers included retired educator Bob McLaughlin, Davis freshman Isabella Levene and Horne.
“So we have a street named after Martin Luther King; we have a school named after Martin Luther King, but yet we don’t have a black City Council member,” she said.
“I think this should be an all-day celebration. This was a great man and we can do more.”
She called out the younger people in the audience, asking those age 20 and under to raise their hands.
“Where do we go from here?” she asked after surveying the crowd. “What is your life’s blueprint?”
Horne urged them to build that “blueprint” with certain tenets — a deep belief in their own dignity and self-worth. “Always feel that you count; always feel that you have worth,” she said.
“Achieve excellence. ... If you can’t be the sun, be a star. Be the best at whatever you are,” she said.