Teens will march to CD parks Saturday to honor MLK

We reported yesterday about Peace Week, an effort led by UmojaFest PEACE Center and the United for Youth Coalition. Well, it’s a good thing we know Seattle’s justice-seeking youth like to walk, because the Seattle Parks Department is hosting their annual MLK Youth March January 14.

Participants will meet at Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial Park (MLK and S Walker St) and walk north, touring some of the Central District’s parks named after Civil Rights figures. After Sam Smith, Powell Barnett and Sidney Gerber Parks, the march will end at Garfield Community Center with group discussions.

Seattle Parks also produced this 15-minute video about the walk, which traces the history of some park namesakes:

More info, from Seattle Parks:

Teens from around Seattle will gather at noon on Saturday, January 14 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Seattle Park that bears his name, located at 2200 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

Seattle Parks and Recreation invites the public to join the march, and to visit the Teen Portal at: http://seattle.gov/parks/teens/programs/mlkprogram.htm to watch a short video on the civil rights movement as the first step in the march.

Teens will gather at the park and begin the march to Garfield Community Center, 2323 E Cherry St., at 1 p.m. The route will take them up Martin Luther King, Jr. Way to E Cherry St. and end at Garfield Community Center. Along the march route, the youth will visit three parks named after local civil rights leaders, and will listen at each one to a brief performance representing the leader:

• Sam Smith Park, 1400 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way S, was named after Sam Smith, the first African-American member of the Seattle City Council who served from 1975 to 1991. Historylink.org, the local online community history encyclopedia, said of Smith, “A man of urbane charm and a friendly nature, he answered his office phone with the greeting, ‘Hello, this is Sam,’ and solved the problems of his constituents in a timely manner. No problem was too small for him to tackle. He considered himself a good neighbor to everyone in Seattle and often drove through the city, stopping to visit constituents in person.”

• Powell Barnett Park, 352 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, is named after the community leader whose vision helped improve civic unity and race relations in 1960s and 1970s Seattle. Known for his ability to bring people together, Barnett was an athlete, a construction foreman, a state Senate clerk, a musician, a small business owner, and was among the leaders who formed the East Madison YMCA and successfully united the African-American and Caucasian boards. He also chaired the committee that revised and strengthened the Seattle Urban League, served on the Board of Community Chest, chaired the Black Musicians’ Union, united black and white unions in Seattle, and organized the semi-professional baseball Umpires Association.

• Sidney Gerber Park, at Cherry St. and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, honors the philanthropist, engineer, civic leader and six-year chair of the State Board Against Discrimination. Gerber was named “Man of the Year” by the Greater Seattle B’nai B’rith in 1961, started and owned Harmony Homes, which built homes for African-Americans in previously all-white neighborhoods. He was also active in the Fair Housing Listing, an organization that pooled the resources of the five real estate firms to provide more listings outside the Central District for African-Americans and matched sellers with buyers. Gerber died in the 1965 plane crash that also took the life of City Councilmember Wing Luke, the first Chinese-American elected to a major office in the U.S.

When they arrive at Garfield Community Center, the marchers will watch the oral histories of veterans of Seattle’s civil rights campaigns and engage in small and large group discussions to reflect on the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement and how the movement has evolved over time.

For more information, please call Ron Mirabueno at 206-233-3979, or e-mail him at [email protected].

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