Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy still affects multitudes of people around the world. (Courtesy of Democracy Now)
Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy still affects multitudes of people around the world. (Courtesy of Democracy Now)

Peace walkers and marchers that participated in the annual MLK Holiday Peace Walk and Parade on Monday passed several historic landmarks as they marched along the avenue named in Dr. King’s honor. 

The peace walkers rallied at Shepherd Parkway, once owned by George Washington Young, a slave owner who freed his slaves under the DC Compensated Emancipation Law. He allowed the federal government to lease his land to build forts for the Union to protect the area from Confederate attack, and to build a hospital. Many of the formerly enslaved people remained in the area and established communities including the historic Barry Farm in Anacostia. 

The marchers joined the MLK parade participants at the entrance of St. Elizabeths, the campus where the hospital bearing the same name opened in 1855. As many as 8,000 indigent residents of the District of Columbia, as well as U.S. Army and Navy soldiers with brain illnesses, according to Wikipedia, were housed and treated there. Soon, the new Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center GW Health, named in honor of the residence where Frederick Douglass lived in Anacostia, will open on the site bringing a broad range of critical care and specialty services to residents east of the Anacostia River. 

Over the years, generations have marched along King Avenue, formerly Nichols Avenue, notably one of the first streets in the nation to be named after Dr. King and to host a parade in his honor. But the avenue has also seen its share of protests over lives lost to gun violence. 

A monument the peace walkers passed near a liquor store at MLK and Malcolm X Avenues was erected two years ago. Teddy bears and stuffed animals mounted underneath a colorful mural was built in remembrance of Nyiah Courtney, the 6-year-old fatally shot there around midnight two years ago while riding her scooter. The 24-year-old suspect who was in court last week for a status hearing, pleaded not guilty to all charges including second-degree murder.

Marchers who carried “Thou Shalt Not Kill” posters focused on children recently harmed or killed by guns. Reports suggest that more children today die from gun violence than car accidents and cancer. 

More than 55 years ago, Dr. King warned: “By…our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim; by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing…we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.”

In his honor, we must reclaim The Dream.

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