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Members of the greater Portland community gathered Monday Jan. 15 at Peninsula Park Community Center for the fourth annual Reclaim MLK Freedom and Unity March. Hosted by Don’t Shoot Portland, Oregon Black Lives Matter and the Children’s Art Social Justice Council, the event commemorated the legacy of Dr. Martin King Luther, Jr. on his 89th birthday.
Participants held up colorful posters with phrases promoting peace and denouncing racism and police brutality. All the artwork displayed on the posters was made by children from the CASJC, according to DSP Executive Director Teressa Raiford.
The reason for having children central to the march was to let them experience protest and non-violent direct action, Raiford said. In her eyes, this is Portland’s next generation of effective leaders.
Raiford, Glenn Waco—a member of hip-hop collective The Resistance—and other adult leaders made sure the march stayed in order with children out in front holding signs and banners followed by adult marchers.
From the community center and occupying the width of the street, they marched east on East Rosa Parks Way for 10 blocks before turning south onto Northeast Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
The march ended at the Oregon Convention Center, where the remaining marchers gathered around The Dream, a bronze statue featuring King and other symbolic figures.
While the children and adults gathered on and around the statue, Waco read aloud the 20-page letter King wrote from a jail cell in Birmingham.
“I believe that hate is taught,” Waco said. “I believe that love is natural. It’s in fear where hate festers and births racism. I don’t believe in love versus hate. I believe in love versus fear.”
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct name of the statue The Dream.