The gymnasium at Seattle’s Garfield High School was packed as a range of speakers honored the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and talked of the work left to do.

Share story

On the 30th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, much work remains to be done to realize King’s dream, speakers and participants at a rally and separate news conference said Monday.

“It’s not a day to sit at home and rest. It’s a day to work for social justice,” said Ramona Harris, 56, a surgical technician who lives in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood.

Harris was one of many who packed the gymnasium Monday at Seattle’s Garfield High School for the 34th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration rally. A march to the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building followed.

This year’s event placed a particular emphasis on inclusiveness, with a logo that includes Coretta Scott King in addition to her husband, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speeches at the rally provided perspectives from women, a transgender student, and young people.

This week, save 75% on select subscriptions.

“The civil-rights movement serves the interests of everybody,” said Bobby Alexander, co-chair of Seattle’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, in a speech at Garfield.

Several speakers talked about the need for equity in education.

“We’re sending our kids to the same schools in the same districts, but they’re getting different educations,” said Kendrick Glover, who runs a mentoring program in Kent.

Erin Jones, an education administrator who is running for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, talked in her keynote address of her decision to become an educator to work for a system where “skin color or ZIP code no longer will determine the education we get.”

Tai Jordan, an 18-year-old student at Evergreen State College, told the crowd that most of society doesn’t understand transgender people.

And while the African-American struggle is different from transgender struggle, “we must focus on what unites us, not what divides us,” said Jordan, a transgender man.

Earlier Monday, about two dozen people gathered at Westlake Avenue North and Republican Street in South Lake Union to speak out against Seattle police tactics against Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

On that corner, said Jesse Hagopian, a Garfield High School teacher, he was doused with pepper spray a year ago by a police officer after participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally and march earlier that day.

“I teach about Dr. Martin Luther King. I teach about the civil-rights movement and movements for human rights around the world,” Hagopian said. “I’m asked to go into that classroom and teach the youth about democracy and teach the youth about how their voice can make a difference in improving the world. And yet when I come out to raise my voice for those very demands, I’m met with an unaccountable police force that is willing to brutalize citizens in this city who want to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King by struggling for social justice.”

Marissa Johnson, a Black Lives Matter activist, called Seattle “a white progressive Utopia” where “black people are still enslaved, they are still brutalized.

“That’s why black resistance in Seattle is so key,” said Johnson, who gained attention last summer when she and another woman shouted Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders off the stage during an event at Westlake Park. “Because when we resist here, against what is supposed to be a Utopia, against what is supposed to be progress, we show the world that hope and white liberalism is death and the only solution is black self-determination and a full abolition of the police state.”