OLYMPIA - More than 50 people gathered Monday at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., the culmination of a day of public service efforts.
During the 25th annual celebration, former Tumwater Mayor Ralph Osgood related King’s “I Have a Dream” speech with the Jan. 8 Tucson shooting that killed six and seriously wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“These are defining moments in our history and, hopefully, learning moments in our history,” he said.
The event, organized by the Thurston Diversity Council, attempted to strike a balance between somber recollection of the assassinated civil rights leader and a rousing celebration of the values he represented.
More emphasis was placed on the latter, beginning with a soaring rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” from Kevin Roberts of Greater Christ Temple. A full bill of musical entertainment followed.
AmeriCorps volunteers, who organized several public service projects around Thurston County, reported on their efforts at the event. Children learned about feminism and civil rights at Madison Elementary School. They were taught about nutritious foods at the Boys & Girls Club in Rochester. And a clothing drive brought in everything from tents to hygiene products.
There was more: Another volunteer organized child care for people rallying for anti-poverty issues at the Capitol. And another organized an anti-bullying event with an appearance from Seattle’s Taproot Theater. That’s just a sampling.
The AmeriCorps volunteers, 25 of whom are assigned to the Youth in Service program at Community Youth Services, are part of a national community service program. Their volunteer hours are multiplied by all the volunteers they recruit for their work. “So much of what they do is about bringing in community members,” said Allen Stanton, Youth in Service team coordinator for Community Youth Services.
Event organizer Carolyn Lynch, chairwoman of the Thurston Diversity Council, said she remembers segregated bathrooms in the south. Now, she’s trying to keep King’s message alive, which she said is relevant today to issues of equality for Hispanics and women.
But what perhaps summed up the day most were quotes from King himself, read by community members on The Washington Center’s stage.
Osgood was one of them.
“We may have all come from different ships,” he recited. “But we’re on the same boat now.”
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869