By Sue Misao
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Mt. Zion Baptist Church was nearly overflowing Friday, Jan. 17, when hundreds gathered for the 40th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration, presented by Seattle Community Colleges. Celebrants included school children, a contingency from the Seattle Police Department, Mayor Ed Murray, council members, and other dignitaries.
The annual event celebrates the life and work of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968.
Broadcast journalist Tonya Mosley was the master of ceremonies for the event.
Mosley produced “Black in Seattle,” a four-part series that recently aired on KUOW. The series explores the challenges faced by black residents as they live and work in this predominantly white city.
The keynote speaker for the event was Michele Norris, host and special correspondent for National Public Radio.
Norris leads The Race Card Project, an initiative to “foster a wider conversation about race in America.” She created “The Race Card” — a postcard on which people write six words that express their thoughts about race and ethnicity.
The celebration began with students from Seattle’s community colleges reading from the thousands of Race Cards people have sent in. Several members of the audience also stood up to read their own “Race Cards,” including City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who said, “Fear is the fuel of racism.”
Alan Sugiyama, director of the Executive Development Institute, said he modified his six words slightly because he was in a church. “Quiet Asians, Pacific Islanders, ‘H’ no!”
Joining Mosley and Norris on stage were Seattle Community Colleges Chancellor Jill Wakefield and board members Albert Shen, Carmen Gayton, Courtney Gregoire, and board member emeritus Tom Mallone, as well as Mt. Zion’s pastor Rev. Aaron Williams and Pastor Emeritus Rev. Samuel B. McKinney, who led the church from 1958 to 1998.
Interspersed with speakers were lively musical offerings from DaNell Daymon and the Greater Works Chorale.
In 1961, Rev. McKinney invited his old Morehouse College friend Martin Luther King Jr. to Seattle to speak about civil rights. It was King’s only visit to Seattle.
Toward the end of Friday’s ceremony, Rev. McKinney led the audience and choir in singing “We Shall Overcome.”
The celebration was one of many events honoring Martin Luther King Jr., including Monday’s march from Garfield High School to Westlake Center. (end)
Sue Misao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.