Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s no small feat to plan a city-wide celebration, especially one that honors one of the most celebrated and iconic human beings of all time — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Yet, on one of the coldest days of this extraordinarily mild winter season, thousands came to Ward 8 in Southeast to celebrate and to serve. More importantly, they came to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King on the national holiday.

The first King parade held in the nation’s capital took place in 1979. Despite the constant depiction of Ward 8 as poverty-stricken and crime-ridden, hundreds marched up King Avenue, in the section of D.C. that proved to be the most appropriate place to pay homage to Dr. King. For he dedicated and lost his life fighting for the eradication of poverty. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, he said “No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’” And, 41 years later, in his first-ever appearance at the King parade held again in Ward 8, his eldest son, Martin Luther King III, said, “If my father was here, he would be right in the midst of the struggle with you. He would be involved in finding answers for homelessness. He would be involved in addressing the environment. He would be involved in the issues of today.”

Sadly, Dr. King, who would have turned 91 on Jan. 15, was killed. Still, his message continues to inspire his followers to do as he intended for them to do — to fight injustice and inequality — everywhere, especially in communities like Ward 8. He called poverty a “monstrous octopus” that the masses that turned out on Monday showed their willingness and ability to slay.

The small group of volunteers that coordinated this event can only invite residents and organizations from across the city and the region to participate. Even Mayor Muriel Bowser has but so much influence over her staff and constituents to bring them out, as she did, to Ward 8. And, it helped, to have other local media to promote the opportunities the annual event provides for celebration and service. But in the end, it is the spirit of Dr. King that forces those to overcome their fears, ignore their (mis)perceptions and to embrace others who share their desire to make Dr. King’s dream a reality. That’s what the day proved to the residents of Ward 8 and showed that residents of this city can come together in love, mutual respect and with a shared vision of equity and equality for all.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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