Celebrating Martin Luther King

by Jenny Goodwine

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate
cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King,

image4Being new to the Pacific Northwest, I was thrilled to discover that celebrating the invaluable social contributions of Dr. King is an annual event for Seattle – and one that is, touchingly, extremely well-attended. I jumped at the chance to attend this year’s MLK celebration at Garfield High School as a representative of Freedom Project. Three of us from Freedom Project packed up and headed over to join the event: Rena Patty, a facilitator of Nonviolent Communication at the men’s prison; Tim Conbere, Freedom Project’s Administrative Assistant; and myself, Jenny Goodwine, Freedom Project intern.

As we entered the school, we saw social justice organizations lining the downstairs hallways. To add a bit of fun and personal warmth to our display, we set up a “Free Hug” sign (as per the wonderful suggestion of our intern, Brian Chang), while Rena Patty sported a unique “Free Empathy” name tag. While we tabled downstairs and spoke with whomever walked by, social justice workshops were held upstairs, ranging from topics such as “Equal Protection Under Law: Police Shootings, How to Reduce Them” to workshops designed for youth: “Promoting Justice through Art.”

After the workshops drew to a close – and we tallied up our 22nd hug for the day – Rena and I were compelled to march the streets. It was clear as I looked into the nearly 1,000 people who gathered, that it was a particularly poignant Martin Luther King Day. Still in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, hundreds of signs were unified in vibrantly proclaiming, “Black Lives Matter!” and “Fight for Your Rights in 2015!” and “Every Life is Sacred!” A spoken word poet during the pre-rally preached:

I wanna break the cycle, and honestly
I wanna raise a black child without fear that they’ll be
Condemned for simply just crossing the streets.

I put my hands up to everyone who stands up for justice, and won’t be budged
Sending out all radical, liberating black love
Seattle, today, stand up!

image1And with that, Rena and I stood up and began our hour long march through downtown Seattle, with the dream of racial unity filling our hearts. We grieved the recent tragedies that have shown that our nation still has a long way to go before racial equality is achieved. As our time drew to a close, our walk was heartwarmingly framed by a young black boy behind us suddenly beginning a familiar and passionate chant, with a proud and hopeful grin across his face:

And the instant voices wavered, he’d shoot back, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!! WHOSE LIVES MATTER?!”

We grinned and laughed as we walked slowly back toward the car, relishing in the beauty of the day, and yelled back to him, “YOUR LIFE MATTERS!”

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