DETROIT (PANW) – For the sixth straight year, the annual commemoration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was hosted at the historic Central United Methodist Church downtown. This year’s event took on added significance since it was held just one day before the inauguration of the first African American president of the United States, Barack Obama.
Demonstrators taking part in a Martin Luther King Day march through Detroit on Jan. 19 expressed solidarity with Palestinians just after the end of a 23-day onslaught by Israeli forces on Gaza.
This year’s MLK Day stressed the necessity of solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza who had been under siege by the Israeli Defense Forces since December 27. As a result of this demonstration of support for the people of Gaza, during which more than 1,200 people were killed, thousands were injured and many more displaced, the Detroit MLK Committee invited three speakers from the Arab American community.
Two Palestinian-American women, Hadil Katato and Hend Elomari, addressed the crowd by paying tribute to the anti-racist and anti-war legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Later in the program, Barbara Harvey, representing Jewish Voice for Peace, gave a brief talk in opposition to Israeli and U.S. policy towards Palestine. Harvey then introduced Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News, representing the Congress of Arab American Organizations.
Each year the Detroit MLK Committee awards a work of art to someone who exemplifies the ongoing legacy of Dr. King. For 2009, the award went to Mrs. Rubie Curl-Pinkins, who was helped by the Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions when her home was under threat of seizure by Bank of America during the summer of 2008.
Demonstrators who marched through Detroit on Jan. 19 to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed optimism over Barack Obama’s inauguration the following day, and solidarity with the struggle of Palestinians under apartheid. PHOTOS: Alan Pollock/Pan-African News Wire
In addition, the Detroit Renaissance High School Choral Group performed during the opening rally at the church. The group, which consisted of approximately 30 students, sung several traditional African American spiritual songs to the delight of the audience.
After the opening rally, the crowd filed out of the church for a march through downtown Detroit. During the march the crowd chanted progressive slogans against war, calling for the utilization of public spending for housing, healthcare, education and jobs.
After the march, the participants returned to the Central United Methodist Church for cultural presentations. The second rally featured the rock band Mick Vranich w/K-9; Lebanese American hip-hop artist Big “A”; poet Peace; author Juliete Parker; poet Will Copeland; and another poet, Abdul, from Bangladesh.
Other speakers at the event included Sandra Hines of the Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions; Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality; Andrea Egypt of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI); Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellerman of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR); Attorney Vanessa Fluker; Rev. Jonathan Combs and Rev. Frank Leineke, both of Central United Methodist Church.
Central United Methodist Church had hosted the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on numerous occasions between 1958 and the year of his martyrdom in 1968. In fact King delivered a major address at the Church just three weeks prior to his assasination in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.
King’s last campaign in Memphis was in support of striking sanitation workers who were fighting for recognition and collective bargaining rights. In the face of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Detroit MLK Committee sought to draw upon the both the anti-war and social justice legacy of King.
This annual event draws upon the volunteer efforts of many individuals and organizations. The Veterans for Peace, the Detroit Wobbly Kitchen and the Food Not Bombs organization provide free food for the participants as well as the homeless community in the downtown area.
Other co-sponsors and endorsers of the MLK Day rally and march included the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC); the Catholic Pastoral Alliance; the Green Party of Michigan; the Matrix Theater Company; Olympia Entertainment; Swords Into Plowshores Art Gallery; the Coalition of Labor Union Women; Healing Support Network; the Justice for Cuba Coalition; the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization; Pastors for Peace; the People’s Weekly World; U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange; the Detroit Action Network for Reproductive Rights; the Coalition to Restore Hope to the Detroit Public Schools; the Buddhist Peace Fellowship; and the Detroit City Council.
Abayomi Azikiwe is editor of the Pan-African News Wire