After constant efforts by Congressman John Conyers and his followers, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill on Nov. 2, 1983, with Congress’s support, which formalized and honored the impact of Martin Luther King Jr. On Jan. 18, 1986, two days before the first celebration of MLK Day, President Reagan addressed the country:
“This year marks the first observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a national holiday.” Reagan stated, “We rejoice because, in his short life, Dr. King, by his preaching, his example and his leadership, helped to move us closer to the ideals on which America was founded. He challenged us to make real the promise of America as a land of freedom, equality, opportunity and brotherhood.”
For 30 years, MLK Day has been dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for equality and freedom. On MLK day, schools teach children about the importance of the Civil Rights movement and Americans attend marches in remembrance of the civil rights leader. On Jan. 19, 2015, BC students participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Rally and March at Garfield High School. The rally was from 10 – 11 a.m., and the march left Garfield High School at noon.
This year marked Seattle’s 33rd annual MLK March . The theme for this year’s march was “Fight for Your Rights in 2015.”
Associated Student Government Vice President of Student Affairs and Pluralism Maria Chebanova was the main organizer for BC’s participation in the event. In order to represent BC, students were provided custom-made Bellevue College scarves and banners to use during the march. For nearly a decade, BC students attended the march to learn about civic engagement and peaceful activism. According to ASG’s Program Coordinator Brandon Lueken, “The MLK March is important because the march encourages several things: it shows Bellevue College’s commitment to the wider Puget Sound community, it encourages students to participate in one of their protected civil rights, the right to peacefully assemble and it increases the students’ awareness of pressing issues in our community.” Furthermore, Lueken claimed, “the students like supporting these movements, which is why we have participated for nearly a decade.”
Lueken also shared that the march and rally began at Garfield High School because the school “has a significant historical role in the community. Garfield is located in the heart of the Central District, which has historically been the neighborhood with the highest concentration of African American residents in Seattle.” The route of the march began at the high school and ended in Downtown Seattle.
At the rally, keynote speaker Jelani Brown, who was involved with coordinating the response against the police in the Ferguson incident, joined participants and shared his experiences growing up in St. Louis and organizing the movement after Mike Brown’s death.
According to the MLK March website, last year at the 32nd annual march, there were “nearly 6,000 participants” who joined and commemorated the holiday; making last year’s march in Seattle have “one of the largest annual Martin Luther King Day Celebrations in the U.S.”