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Locals remember MLK Jr. on and after his day

BY NOELLE ALKHAWAJA | JANUARY 20, 2015 5:00 AM

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Community members gathered on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to not just remember King’s birthday but to remind each other that racial and socioeconomic issues are still around today.

Local residents hosted several events across Iowa City.

“I think it’s about trying to understand equality,” said UI senior Reggie Ross, who spoke at a march outside the Old Capitol on Monday afternoon. “People don’t know that Dr. Martin Luther King went beyond race. They think it’s all about black people … There’s class warfare as well as racial warfare, and I want to stop it.”

One speaker noted the Iowa City School District’s decision last year to hold classes on the holiday. The district faced much criticism, and students had the day off this year.

“Last year, the school district took away MLK Day,” said Fred Newell, the founder and executive director of the Dream Center, at a UI event in Currier Hall.

Many questioned the lack of progression in equality since King’s slaying.

“We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, folks; we’re not in the Promised Land, we’re not wherever we need to be,” Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said.

Overall, marchers stated the need to treat every day as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Steve Birdine, a national speaker from the Harbor Institute, said if King were alive, “he would still be doing a whole lot of marches.”

Given the tragic and continually debated events that have struck many with grief and terror this year such as the Ferguson case, many people are uniting under King this year for a revival of what he stood for in the civil-rights movement.

Other speakers and participants said those in society need to remember the civil-rights movement in light of a recent wave of racial protests following high-profile deaths of African Americans at the hands of police, such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

 Newell said minorities in the Iowa City community still face stereotyping and discrimination even 50 years after the civil-rights movement.

“I define who I am,” he said.

He also spoke about service and how important it is to get involved in the community, asking students to “step out of the norm … regardless if it’s uncomfortable.”

Birdine spoke about immigration and socioeconomics tying into racial issues in both the past and the present.

“King himself was not the movement,” Birdine said.

Ross expressed Martin Luther King Jr. Day should go further than simply remembering King himself.

“It’s not about the day or about MLK himself,” he said. “It’s about trying to understand equality. Dr. Martin Luther King went beyond race.”


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