Marchers wave banners during the MLK parade in Spokane in 2015 - Jan Shannon photo

I march for them

By Jan Shannon

Westminster UCC marches in the MLK parade, 2015 - Jan Shannon photo
Westminster UCC marches in the MLK parade, 2015 – Jan Shannon photo

I marched in the MLK Day march Monday (Jan. 19) in Spokane for many reasons, some more altruistic than others. I march because it is part of my job. I march because there are lots of other people there and frankly, I like crowds. I march because I’m still a little new to social activism and I learn a lot about social justice every time I attend such an event.

All those reasons for marching work fine on a mild January day like yesterday, but when it’s windy, cold, and rain mixed with sleet like it was in 2014, I march for them. When the weather is fine, a long walk with fun people is a great way to kill some time, but when the weather turns nasty, I don’t march for the fun of it. I march for them.

I march for the next generation. I march for my grandchildren and for yours. When the climate of the fight turns nasty and it seems much easier to stay in bed, I march for them. Hatred and racism, prejudice and discrimination still exist but I have hope that there are better days ahead. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and his dream is not yet a reality but I believe that it is a very real possibility, and I’ll tell you why I believe it; I believe it because of the young people I saw and heard today.

Grant Elementary students perform during MLK events in Spokane - Jan Shannon photo
Grant Elementary students perform during MLK events in Spokane – Jan Shannon photo

Young people like the group of students from Grant Elementary who not only had the courage to speak in front of such a large crowd, but who also danced and drummed for us. No giggling or shyness, no awkward glances or childish nerves. No, these young people taught us Swahili and Bantu words, and without any reserve, threw themselves into dances that were ancient and foreign. For their courage and their boldness, I’ll march.

Young people like the drummers from The Community School, students who have overcome challenges with the mainstream school system and who now excel in the New Tech Network environment. These intelligent, well-spoken, self-motivated young people have a passion to make their world a better place and they clearly have the skills to make it happen. To show them that there is a welcoming world waiting for them post-high school, I’ll march.

Young people like Tahlyke Chenevert, whose poem roused the crowd, words that mixed urban vibes with the Word of God and filled my heart with hope. Tahlyke spoke about redemption and painted for us a picture of God reaching down and picking us up so that we in turn can reach down and help someone else up. He talked about how fear keeps us from achieving and how through education we can reach our goals. Oh yeah, I’ll march for that!

Young people like Eastern Washington University’s Black Student Union President Satori Butler. As she read the names of the young black men who lost their lives due to the systemic racism in America, you could hear her voice shake. Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, John Crawford — these names should haunt America’s future, and as Butler said, “This needs to stop.” Oh hell yeah! I’ll march for that!

Young people like my grandchildren who aren’t even old enough to go to school. For them I march in hopes that, one day, pray God, there won’t be a reason to march.

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  1. Yes, Jan, I’ll march for those reasons. Even more so, I’ll march to keep alive the movement. There are too many who still don’t want te humble, the victimized, a say in their redemption. There are still too many who think that by resorting to violence we can bring peace and justice. Too many still argue whether or not an act is war, or violence, rather than trying to find a nonviolent action that exposes and opposes the violence. I march to follow in the footsteps of that great nonviolent activist, Jesus, not of assert his divinity but to assert his humanness, his being something we all can be, loving neighbors.

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