Words

The Dream Continues

King celebration focuses on families in need
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His life cut short by an assassin’s bullet, Dr. Martin Luther Kin Jr., inspired 50,000 people to march on the nation’s capital. Dr. King’s death came after he had made plans for a massive poor people’s march. His death did not diminish those plans, and in May of 1968, thousands arrived to erect Resurrection City, a community of makeshift wooden homes and tents that presented a stark contrast to the majestic marble buildings of Washington. There the poor and oppressed slept, ate and demonstrated.

Today, 44 years on, programs created in response to that march and that need lie on the chopping block, starved by recession and budget cuts, weakened by heightened need as millions remain out of work.

College campuses and social service providers are organizing the 2nd Annual Poverty Action March and Essential Needs Drive to take place on Martin Luther King Day. Community members will join together to honor Dr. King’s legacy of social justice and equal opportunity.

“The march is inspired by the 1968 Poor People’s March on Washington D.C,” explained Janet Marino, executive director of the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center, “to bring attention to economic and social disparities for Americans living in poverty.”

A graduate of Western Washington University and former operations manager at the Bellingham YWCA, Marino used those connections to create a tighter community bond between the college and the community. This marks the fourth year the university, Whatcom Community College, and Bellingham Technical College have joined together for the MLK Day of Service, and the 14th year WWU has done the Read-In. This is the first year all three campuses are collaborating for this National Day of Service.

Participants will gather for a breakfast at Bellingham High School at 10am where they will hear inspirational speakers, including Rosalinda Guillen, director of Community to Community Development, a leader empowering the local food movement.

The march will follow at 11am, beginning at Bellingham High School and marching past City Hall. Western’s Step2This team will kick off the march.

A celebration honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King will take place at noon at City Hall. The event will feature the Kulshan Chorus, Bellingham’s cross-cultural multi-generational singing group that celebrates America’s diverse musical heritage.

People are encouraged to donate essential items beforehand to local providers whose supplies are depleted by the holiday season. Essential-need items include diapers, laundry soap, toiletries, baby food, canned and dried goods, and new clothing. Items can be dropped off through Jan. 18 at the Whatcom Volunteer Center, 725 N. State St., the Community Food Co-op at 1220 North Forest St., or the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center at 1220 Bay St.

“The timing of this call to action comes during a crucial state,” Marino said. “Services and resources for those in poverty in Whatcom County continue to deplete while the number of citizens in need continues to rise. The purpose of this apolitical march is to raise a level of awareness for the unmet needs in the community, and support those in poverty in their struggles toward equal opportunity. The hope is to trigger dialogue around these topics and generate further awareness, action and volunteerism in Whatcom County.”

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Children and their parents are invited to gather at Village Books from 12:30-2:30pm on Mon., Jan. 21 to hear stories from around the world about tolerance, the civil rights movement and diversity in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Western Washington University’s Center for Service-Learning and Village Books sponsor the annual MLK Day Read-In that will take place following community-wide MLK Day activities downtown.

Western student volunteers will celebrate Dr. King’s dream of equality and hope by engaging with children through literature, games and dialogue focused on civil rights topics. Community members are encouraged to bring children ages three to eight to Village Books any time during the event. Parents are welcome to participate.

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