MLK Unity Rally brought the community together


Brad Brown

The P-Jammers band energizes the crowd as they march through the streets of downtown Spokane.

By Logan Stanley, Staff Reporter

In remembrance of civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the day that has been bestowed upon him, the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center hosted its annual MLK Day Unity Rally at the Spokane Convention Center (SCC).

The rally was led by Freda Gandy, executive director of the MLK Family Outreach Center and featured a panel of speakers and performers. The rally also included a march which led to River Park Square and back to SCC.

The event kicked off at 10 a.m. with Spokane Mayor David Condon beginning the litany of speeches. A jumbotron screen was also placed behind the onstage speakers that helped show projected real-time donations for the MLK Day fundraiser. The goal was $7,000, with proceeds going to the Outreach Center.

By the second speaker, Whitworth University President Dr. Beck A. Taylor, that goal had already been reached in just a mere 30 minute time span. By noon, the total amount raised had reached over $9,000. Phil Tyler, the Spokane NAACP chapter President, followed Whitworth President Taylor in the list of presenters.

The next speaker, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, drew the ire of the crowd while speaking. The displeasure appears to have stemmed from political tension as the crowd began chanting “save our healthcare.” McMorris-Rodgers’ speech concluded shortly after the chants started and was booed as she left the podium which prompted a speech from Gandy. Gandy called for the protection and preservation of Dr. King’s legacy and cautioned the crowd that booing does not fall in line with that, proclaiming “what divides us will destroy us.”

After Gandy’s impromptu speech, Reverend Happy Watkins wrapped up the unity rally with a rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Watkins has been the pastor of New Hope Church in Spokane since 1990, and is known for his renditions of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

Also part of the Outreach Center’s MLK Day event was a resource fair which featured booths offering services such as Meal on Wheels, Northwest Fair Housing Alliance and the Native Project. Additionally, individuals could participate in community service. Among those volunteers were some of EWU’s very own, which was set up by the EWU Office of Community Engagement. Christina Sosa, College Axis coordinator for Community Engagement, said EWU’s goal was to inspire more student involvement.

“Today we wanted to encourage students to make it a day on and not a day off,” said Sosa. “We recruited Eastern volunteers to come out and go to different sites.”

There are multiple sites where groups of students go out and volunteer. The service project students participate in depends on the agency hosting the site, with each project designed to give back the Spokane community.

Some of the organizations EWU volunteers were working with included Hearth Homes, The Salvation Army, Mission Community and American Red Cross. Cleanup help, new paint jobs and installing new fire alarms were among the services provided by the volunteers.

For some people like EWU senior and volunteer George Gay, giving back to the community remains a top priority.

“One of my goals coming to Eastern was just to make an impact on my community,” said Gay. “[I’m] just trying to have a good impact on the community I live in, try to make it a better place.”

Gay was one of the site leaders that led is group to Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization focusing on building homes, for a project. In Gay’s eyes, it is a chance to get up close and personal with adversity and lend his hand in the fight against it.

“Going out, getting our hands a little dirty. Getting a firsthand experience with people who are facing those issues,” Gay said when asked what he thought the event was about.

In total, Gay expected his crew to be working well into the afternoon, and despite the frigid conditions, generosity prevailed.

“Try to not take life for granted,” said Gay. “Some people are less fortunate than you; even the smallest impact can have a domino effect.”