County leaders celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 16, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) and County Councilman Larry Gossett honor Martin Luther King Jr. at a Jan. 13 celebration. Contributed

NEW — 10 a.m. Jan. 16, 2011

King County leaders honored Martin Luther King Jr. and highlighted local efforts to eliminate inequality at a jubilant celebration Jan. 13.

The county hosted more than 750 people at The 5th Avenue Theatre in downtown Seattle for the 24th annual celebration.

“I feel pride when I see King County government employees hard at work every day to achieve Dr. King’s goal of a fair and just America,” County Executive Dow Constantine said. “Many of the county government employees who serve residents have completed Equity and Social Justice training to ensure they uphold Dr. King’s values and remove barriers that limit anyone’s ability to fulfill their full potential.”

King County has emphasized ties to the civil rights leader in the last 25 years.

County Council members voted to designate King as the county’s namesake in 1986. The change took effect in 2005 after ratification from the Legislature.

“This year’s theme was derived from a poem urging participation in the effort to end apartheid in South Africa,” council Chairman Larry Gossett said. “Those powerful words, ‘We are the ones we have been waiting for,’ recognizes our individual and collective responsibility to continue Dr. King’s work to make this one nation with equity and justice for all and calls on us to not remain silent in the battle to eliminate inequities in King County and throughout America.”

Gossett sponsored legislation in 2006 to adopt a graphic of King as the county emblem. County Council members adopted the logo — and agreed to phase out the former crown emblem — in March 2007.

The celebration featured musicians, poets and a keynote address from Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, a research director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jones urged the audience to work to create deeper levels of conversation and action — as individuals and as members of institutions — to ensure every child in King County and around the nation can reach his or her full potential.

“Let us not speak about my children versus your children, for these are all our children,” she said. “We need to cherish and support all of our children, for they are the only part of the future we can touch.”

During the celebration, the county Civil Rights Commission also recognized three eighth-grade students in a yearly essay contest to recognize King. The contest encourages students to think about King’s legacy of peace and justice.

Residents can catch a recap of the celebration on King County Television — Comcast and Broadstripe Cable Channel 22 — at 9 p.m. Sunday, 9:30 a.m. Monday and 7 p.m. Monday. (Monday is the federal holiday to honor King.)

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