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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Hundreds brave cold in King march

    Hundreds of people marched about three miles yesterday morning from the Student Union Memorial Center to Reid Park in honor of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. This was the 21st march held in Tucson, which focused on support of the fight against AIDS.
    Hundreds of people marched about three miles yesterday morning from the Student Union Memorial Center to Reid Park in honor of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. This was the 21st march held in Tucson, which focused on support of the fight against AIDS.

    Tucsonans gathered on the UA Mall early yesterday morning to fight oppression and the freezing weather at the 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. March and Celebration.

    The event began as a protest in 1986 after Gov. Bruce Babbitt issued an executive order declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday for state employees. But before it could be celebrated that year, Babbitt’s successor, Evan Mecham, rescinded it, said Clarence Boykins, president of the Tucson-Southern Arizona Black Chamber of Commerce.

    It was not until 1992 that Arizona voters were able to make the King holiday an official state holiday, Boykins said.

    Participants came to yesterday’s march to continue their tradition of honoring King.

    “”I remember the words of Martin Luther King, and we are here to honor him and the society we are a part of in Tucson,”” said Mayor Bob Walkup, who gave a short speech during the opening activities on the UA Mall.

    Walkup also gave advice on how to keep warm during the observance.

    “”We checked with the weather man, and it’s going to be a high of 53 degrees today,”” Walkup said.

    The crowd of about 300 people that gathered on the Mall at 8 a.m. endured a temperature that was several degrees below freezing.

    Tucson City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, who has marched in 20 of the 21 Tucson MLK Day marches, said participants have endured rain and snow in the past, but this year was one of the coldest.

    Still, the weather didn’t decrease the turnout, and Boykins said he expected hundreds more people to join the march along the route to Reid Park, where the celebration continued.

    Members from Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Veterans for Peace, city government, the Jobs for Justice Coalition and others joined to support the cause.

    “”Groups with like interest need to stand together,”” said Alice Ritter, treasurer of Veterans for Peace.

    The idea of like interest encompassed several different themes this year. Some citizens were there to promote tolerance while others were there to promote equality, and the

    organizers decided it was time to include another cause along with the celebration of King’s birthday.

    “”This year we are here in dedication of the fight against the AIDS epidemic that is killing our African Americans 10 times more than whites,”” said Kathy Outlaw, coordinator of leadership of African American Student Affairs at the UA.

    The new theme, “”Silence equals death: We must eliminate HIV,”” was fueled by the words of King, who said, “”A time comes when silence is betrayal.””

    One group used the day’s events to kick off the beginning of their own memorial.

    “”We are making benches with quotes from Martin Luther King on them and putting them around the community,”” said Stephanie Wacha, an AmeriCorps member with the Volunteer Center of Southern Arizona’s Youth Now program.

    The program calls for 100 benches to be made and placed within 100 days.

    Many others participated to remember the wisdom of King’s words and to put them into action.

    “”We are here to show our pride in being an African-American and to mingle with people in our society who want to honor Martin Luther King too,”” said Khristian Fleming, a

    pre-education sophomore and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

    The sorority, along with their graduate chapter, volunteered to run a stand offering coffee, water and doughnuts to participants.

    As the march started, Trasoff said she remembered why she chose to go out in the freezing weather.

    “”Martin Luther King Jr. was a very wise man,”” Trasoff said. “”We wouldn’t have the divides we have today if everyone listened to his words.””

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