EUGENE – The cities of Eugene and Springfield honor the late Martin Luther King, Jr. by marching as a community Monday morning.
In Eugene, the “Standing United” march begins at 10 a.m. Participants will gather at University of Oregon’s PK Park starting at 9 a.m.
The 20th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. march and celebration in Springfield starts at 1 p.m. at the Springfield Justice Center.
This year, MLK Day falls on Dr. King’s actual birthday, Jan. 15. If alive today, the civil rights icon would have been 89-years-old.
Former president Ronald Reagan signed MLK Day into law in 1983.
The first national MLK Day was observed 3 years later in 1986.
Eugene/Springfield NAACP lifetime member, Antonia Lewis, shared her memories of her early civil rights work in the 1960’s with KEZI 9 News. She said she thought in recent years racism was nearly over, but 2017 brought back memories from the past.
“People of all races and colors and so forth were advancing into various positions of importance and getting elected to offices and it really looked like things were going well,” Lewis said. “Then recently, we’ve had this backlash. We have to be more aware of everyone around us, and not just look only through our eyes.”
Lewis grew up in Washington, D.C. where she began her journey working in civil rights in the early 1960’s. She was indirectly involved in the NAACP in D.C. while she participated as a college student in nonviolent actions in Maryland and Virginia. Lewis sat-in at various lunch counters, drug stores, and movie theaters that were for white people only.
“We were inspired by the first sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina in February of 1960 when some young black university students decided they were tired of not being able to sit down at the drug store lunch counter,” Lewis said. “They were tired of it and decided they weren’t going to leave and that was the beginning of the sit-in movement.”
NAACP Educator, Anetra Brown, said she focuses on education children to grow up knowing they’re valuable, no matter the color of their skin. She said she hopes MLK Day will remind people to get involved in fighting racial and social injustice.
“Whatever you’re doing now is what would have done then,” Brown said. “So I’ve been thinking about that the last few days and just the role I can play as a young black woman in Eugene. It’s exciting to me because it’s an opportunity to do my part and make this community safe for everyone.”
President Donald Trump is encouraging Americans to observe the federal holiday by doing “Acts of Civic Work and Community Service.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929 and was killed April of 1968. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of his assassination.