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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

MLK festival promotes city comradery

Hundreds of people marched through the west entrance of Reid Park yesterday morning to attend the 26th annual The Power of a Dream: Martin Luther King’s Jr. March and Festival.

“”We come here to meet up with people, to just not be at home on our day off,”” said Raven Johnson, a freshman at Pima Community College.

This is the second time Johnson has attended the festival. She and a friend were carrying a large sign that read “”Bring back WPA”” in bold white letters across the top, and “”Jobs with Justice”” on the bottom.

The Tucson-Southern Arizona Black Chamber of Commerce and the UA African American Student Affairs coordinated the festival. This year’s event was also a tribute to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of the shooting on Jan. 8.

“”We come to this event in the midst of still healing from tragedy,”” said Rev. E.J. McDowell in an opening prayer. McDowell asked for a moment of silence, and the hundreds of people sitting in the grass before him were suddenly quiet. Everybody joined hands or extended a hand for a “”touch in love”” from their neighbor, to actuate the prayer McDowell that was leading them through about violence not being necessary in the world.

“”We celebrate Martin Luther King Day in a way that will make us better citizens, as brothers and sisters, towards one another,”” he said.  

Tents where vendors sold food lined the perimeter of the festival. The El Rio Community Health Center Foundation, a clinic that specializes in HIV treatment and medical services, gave out information packets to draw people to come to one of their 16 clinics in the Tucson community.

Gloria Gamble, a practical nurse at the clinics, said this is not their first year attending to the festival.

“”We want to reach out to everyone and invite different people,”” she said.

Other tents sold fish, carne asada burritos, chicken and waffles, Hawaiian shaved ice, and other drinks and food.

“”We’ve been doing this for 26 years, and it’s a great opportunity to let everyone here in Tucson and in Arizona know that we have Martin Luther King in our hearts, that we keep his dream in our soul, and that we never lose hope,”” said Richard Elias, the District 5 representative on the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

He added that there is much work to be done in the state of Arizona.

“”It’s up to us to find a nonviolent response to the ugly talking that’s been going on all around us, because we have to stand up in opposition to it,”” Elias said. “”We cannot accept that. We will not accept that. That is not what Tucson is about.””

Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero took the stage and spoke to the audience about the injustices she believes are evident in the state of Arizona, “”where it feels like such a pressure cooker.”” Romero urged people to stand up against bills like S.B. 1070, receiving a roar of applause in return.

“”It is wrong to bring bills that marginalize people, that make every single person of Mexican decent a target and suspect … Dr. King would stand up for that,”” she said. “”He would stand arm-in-arm with us.””

Though many people were there to listen to the speeches made by people such as Romero, Elias, Tucson City Council Member Karin Uhlich, and others, some were simply there for the pleasure of seeing familiar faces.

“”I like to see everybody here coming together,”” said Tyler Tobin, a student at Tucson High School, who comes to the festival every year. He said the performances are his favorite part.

 

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