Sunday, January 19, 2014

Idaho Late to the Party to Celebrate Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted By on Sun, Jan 19, 2014 at 2:00 PM


While Idaho and the nation prepares for the Monday, Jan. 20 celebration of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, it's important to take note that Idaho was late to the party. In fact, the Gem State was among the last states in the nation to honor Dr. King.

The official national holiday was signed into law in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan, but it wasn't until 1990 that then-Idaho Gov.r Cecil Andrus signed legislation making Idaho the 47th state to recognize an official King state holiday.

But the designation didn't come until after a string of Idaho lawmakers who argued against giving another paid holiday to state employees and questioning the importance of Dr. King.

Ultimately, in an effort to pacify legislators opposed to the King honor, it was decided that the third Monday of January would be known as "Idaho Human Rights Day."

All county, state, federal and most city offices will be closed Monday, but the Idaho Legislature will be in session.

ValleyRide city buses will run on normal schedules.

Post offices and most banks will be closed.

Honors for Dr. King will begin as early as 9 a.m. on Monday when families are invited to Boise State's Student Union Building Jordan Ballroom for a poster-making party. Attendees will then march up Capitol Blvd. for a rally on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse. That's where they'll hear Rev. Happy Watkins from New Hope Baptist Church in Spokane, Wash., recite Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Meanwhile, inside the Statehouse the Idaho Human Rights Commission will host a ceremony on the second floor of the Capitol rotunda. Music will be performed by the Common Ground Community Chorus. Lt. Gov. Brad Little is expected to participate.

Dr. Jill Gill, professor of history at Boise State, will be the main speaker at the Statehouse ceremony.

"I'll be specifically pointing to this year being the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act," Gill told Boise Weekly. "It was a critical watershed."

And when Boise Weekly asked Gill if her remarks might make some state officials uncomfortable, she said "yes."

"I'm going to tell the historical story, but history isn't just about the old, dusty days. This is about how history shapes our present," said Gill. "Today, we hear discussions about states' rights and how they bump up against things like immigration, gay marriage and medicaid expansion. I listen to that, and when I look back at 1964, I recognize that this was the story back then, too."

Gill said there will definitely be a "take away" from her address on Monday.

"There is absolutely going to be a call to action," she said. "I think about all of this as a historian, but I have to ask, 'What's the purpose here? Why should this matter?'"

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