In the name of love, more than 700 Utahns braved the slick and icy roads Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a University of Utah-sponsored rally and accompanying “marade.”
Clergy of all creeds, students from across the Salt Lake Valley and the University of Utah, and others huddled inside the auditorium of East High School as the morning’s snowstorm was concluding.
They were there to honor King, who would have turned 83 the day before.
Immediately after the hourlong rally ended, about 200 members of the crowd marched along 1300 East toward Kingsbury Hall, a little over a mile away, to participate in other King-associated events as the University’s weeklong remembrance continued.
During the rally, the crowd listened to music from the Bryant Middle School Jazz Band and the choir Praise United in between speeches from the U.’s Dr. Jennifer Williams Molock and the afternoon’s keynote speaker, Rev. France A. Davis, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church and a trustee of the Utah State Board of Regents.
“We still have a long, long ways to go,” Davis told the crowd. “The only way we’ll get there is by keeping moving forward.”
“Moving Forward” was the theme of the U.’s fourth-annual rally and “marade” — a cross between a march and a parade. The theme, repeatedly intoned, was taken from King’s words himself:
If you can’t fly, then run
If you can’t run, then walk
If you can’t walk, then crawl
But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward
The event was largely organized by the U.’s Office for Equity and Diversity and tailored to an audience dominated by young people. Molock told the audience that although President Ronald Reagan signed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed in 1986, it wasn’t until 2000 that Utah changed the name of the holiday from “Human Rights Day” to one honoring King.
“This is a time to celebrate where we come from,” Molock said.
Davis also oriented his address to students, telling them that there are five things they need to do to live up to King’s ideals: find a mentor; have a vision; communicate effectively; be a transformer, rather than a conformer; and walk the talk. “Become a butterfly if you’ve been a caterpillar all your life,” he said.
As stirring as the speeches were, the rally became the most fervent when the choir Praise United performed a transcendent rendition of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” led by Courtney Smith on piano. The gospel hymn was said to be King’s favorite song and the song he requested be sung at his funeral by Mahalia Jackson.
Shortly after 3 p.m., the crowd left the auditorium and many held simple signs as they headed toward Kingsbury Hall with steady feet. The Crescent City Jazz Band played as the young men and women walked on to remember the man whose life, but not his pride, was taken away nearly 44 years ago.