.Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Hundreds attend annual march

Before hundreds of people began a march Monday morning to commemorate Martin Luther King Day, a solemn hush fell over the crowd as political chanting briefly ceased and the good-natured whooping died down. 

“Finally,” 6-year-old Brianna Hodgkins said, sitting astride her father’s shoulders. “Now we can move!”

The little Santa Cruz resident was part of a march including religious groups, nonprofit organizations, individuals and political candidates.

The event was intended to highlight the life of the iconic leader, whose “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington almost six decades ago still resonates as the struggle for equal rights continues to come under assault.

“What he stood for and what he taught is so relevant and needed today,” said organizer Amanda Harris Altice, who serves as treasurer for the Santa Cruz branch of the NAACP. “It’s important to continue that and to highlight folks that are part of our Black community here in Santa Cruz. To be visible, be seen and be supported.”

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Brenda Whitley, who serves on the NAACP’s Executive Committee, said that the current political climate–which includes book bans and the erosion of voting rights nationwide–makes it more important than ever to show solidarity.

“With everything that’s going on right now, it’s important for all of us to get together and talk about how we can do this in a peaceful way,” she said.

Eugenia Rice, who attended the event as part of the Baháʼí community, said she had a simple reason for being there.

“We want to show that we’re more alike than we are different,” she said.

NAACP President Elaine Johnson said that the day is a time to set politics aside.

“With everything that’s going on right now, it’s time for us to just pause and love each other and stay in solidarity with each other,” she said. “Let’s just be the peace that (King) wanted for us so many years ago.”

NAACP Vice President Don Williams said that, just before he was assassinated, King was working on ending the Vietnam War. It is that legacy, he said, that should be honored.

“For too long, we as a people have been fighting each other,” he said. “God made us to love, so we want to capitalize on the message and the messenger today. It’s not about us. It’s about us making a change of truly uplifting someone higher than yourself.”

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