Hundreds of people came to the Idaho Statehouse to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Hundreds of people, many of them students, marched from Boise State University campus to the Idaho Capitol building the morning of Jan. 18 to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. For those in attendance, the event was as much a reminder of King's legacy of fighting for civil rights as it was a reminder that the movement he helped build still has work to do.
"The journey isn't over yet. That's what brings us here today," said Associated Students of Boise State University President Brian Garretson to the crowd during a speech in which he invoked the fight for racial equality alongside those against police brutality and for LGBT rights.
For everyone who took the podium, MLK Day was a call to action. Boise State Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion Francisco Salinas told the crowd King disapproved of the slow march to civil rights, preferring bold action that affirmed people and their rights as citizens. In an election year, as LGBT Idahoans struggle to add "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" the the state's human rights law, and in the thick of the Black Lives Matter movement, Salinas said "the urgency Dr. King identified then is no less urgent now."
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ASBSU President Brian Garretson: "The journey isn't over yet. That's what brings us here today."
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Demonstrators marched from Boise State University to the Capitol Building.
The crowd's passion for King's legacy didn't satisfy Job Corps worker Leah Burke, who said she's passionate about wage equality, and displeased that "if you're a person of color, you're going to get paid less than a white person." She worried the fervors for civil rights and public service would wane among many by the end of MLK Day.
"Once a year everyone gets this fire in them for equality. It's not enough," she said.
Sandra Armenta, a Boise State graduate, said she stays involved with the university on civil rights and racial justice issues. Like Burke, she expressed dissatisfaction with people's day-to-day attitudes toward justice—especially when people see injustice, yet do nothing to stop it.
"People don't have to learn about [injustice]," she said. "I think a lot of people believe not discriminating is enough, but being silent is an important part [of the problem]."
Inside the Capitol, a concurrent, though no less charged, MLK Day celebration was underway. The indoor celebration began with the Boise Gay Men's Chorus singing the National Anthem.
But the highlight of the event was a keynote speech by Dr. Keith Anderson of the Boise State University Department of Education, whose rousing speech about the immediacy and timelessness of King's message drew applause from the audience.
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Dr. Keith Anderson: "Wanting a loving society isn't for the weak at heart."
"Every speech [King] gave, he made no bones as to the origin of his passions," Anderson said. "He left us to apply truth."
Anderson told the audience that while the civil rights movement had made significant gains, he echoed Garretson's observation that the work of the movement is far from complete, and that the voices that openly espoused hatred and racial division in the pass "changed their wardrobes" to continue their work covertly. While basking in its early successes, the civil rights movement allowed the down-but-not-out voices of racism and bigotry to gain purchase again in society.
"Now the hate has come full circle," Anderson said.
The only way to combat it, he said, is to continue the work of the civil rights movement, and combat hatred wherever it is. King was a practitioner of nonviolent protest, Anderson told the crowd, but that doesn't excuse failing to speak out against oppression and violence. For Anderson, King was a warrior for justice, and it takes courage and action to build the world in the image of our ideals.
"Wanting a loving society isn't for the weak of heart," he said.
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