About 200 people gathered on a rainy Monday afternoon at East High School in Salt Lake City to pay their respects to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a reckoning force in the fight for civil rights.
Reverend Oscar Moses of Calvary Baptist Church and Interfaith Council gave an invocation and addressed the crowd.
“Dr. King was the catalyst for the civil rights movement that helped pilot the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Moses said. “He gave voice to the peoples disenfranchised and marginalized in the world, who clung and still cling to the hope of a true United States of America.”
It’s been 37 years since the first federally designated MLK Day was celebrated, but Utah didn’t adopt the holiday until 2000.
Monday’s event was part of MLK USA Week, “a platform to engage students, faculty, interns, staff, and community members in critical conversations about racial issues and Contemporary Civil Rights in America”.
The East High School Jazz Band performed, followed by remarks from speakers like Pamela Bishop, director of marketing and communications for the university’s Department of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion .
Young and old filled the auditorium. Black Menaces TikTok co-founder Sebastian Stewart-Johnson was one of the attendees. The group is known for fighting racism on the Brigham Young University campus and starting other important conversations on campus.
Young children and adults held signs provided by the U., which featured quotes from Dr. King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence. Many also brought personalized signs, such as a little girl in a pink tulle skirt who carried a sign with a hand-drawn illustration of Dr. King.
According to EDI Vice President Mary Ann Villarreal, MLK week at the U is planned by a volunteer committee of students, faculty and staff like Frances Battle, who spoke at the event. The theme of the week, she said, is choosing love over hate like Dr. King did.
The event also featured two performances by the Resistance Revival Chorus, a New York-based musical group that explores activism, and remarks by Mayor Jenny Wilson. University of Utah Student Associate President Taylor VanderToolen also spoke.
While Governor Spencer Cox and Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson were absent from the event, Nubia Peña, Senior Equity and Opportunity Advisor in Cox’s office, stressed the need for continued efforts on behalf of the racial equity.
Peña stressed the importance of focusing on equity and diversity in the upcoming legislative session, referencing the CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” Several states have passed versions of the law prohibiting discrimination based on hairstyles. A Utah version was sponsored by Senator Derek Kitchen in the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions, but the bill did not advance year over year.
Then the group led by University of Utah President Taylor Randall marched to Kingsbury Hall on the U. campus, just over a mile from East High School. , many umbrellas with their signs.
As Mary Ann Villarreal, vice president of equity, diversity and inclusion at U., told the crowd in the auditorium, “There’s no stopping the rain. this walk.”