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King's dream alive in Juneau

Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nearly 40 years after Martin Luther King Jr. fell to an assassin's bullet, part of his dream was realized in the multicolored faces of the Faith Community School Choir singing "Agree to Agree" during a ceremony to honor the famed civil rights leader Monday.

The celebration of King's life was sponsored by the Juneau Black Awareness Association. The theme "What Are you Dreaming of" brought about 250 people to the Juneau Christian Center for the 90-minute celebration in which speeches, culture and remembrance mixed with hymns and hopes for the future.

Michelle Monts, past association president and master of ceremonies, noted "dream" is both a noun and a verb, and when a dream takes an action it becomes a verb.

"That was Martin Luther King," she said. "We are here today living out what he hoped would happen."

Kenneth Cook, Black Awareness Association president, explained he was at the great Selma march in April 1965 in a roundabout way. Three months before he was born, his mother marched and he went along.

"I just didn't know which way I was going," Cook said.

Living through school integration in the 1970s and going on to have a successful military career, a beautiful family and a life in Alaska has made Cook a happy man, he said.

"Stick to the dream and things can happen."

Sharing the event with Alaska's first female governor furthered King's dream, Cook said.

After proclaiming Jan. 21 as Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Alaska, Gov. Sara Palin said King taught the timeless values of justice and liberty for all people.

"He broke down barriers," she said.

Juneau resident Bruce Weeks participated in the celebration from the pews. Weeks was in fourth grade when King was shot and killed. He remembers his teacher asking the class to write about King.

"It was years later before I understood the significance of Martin Luther King," Weeks said.

King's work left behind a varied legacy, from the search for racial and economic equality to his passionate challenge of the Vietnam War.

It's different for each person, Weeks said. To him, King's legacy is one of social justice.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho reminded those too young to remember that Alaska had its own shortcomings when the past is looked at through the filter of King's great dream of equality. Alaska Natives were not allowed to make a claim on land or gold, and education was "separate but equal," he said.

"Thank God it is our past," Botelho said. "We cannot forget these things."

With the totality of King's dream yet to be realized, Monts said she looks forward to a day when a man's skin color does not affect a presidential campaign.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.



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