Seattle Courant

Dr. Martin Luther King Shares His Birthday With Barack Obama

Martin Luther King birthday celebration starting at Garfield High School. Jan. 19, 2009
By Keith Vance
January 19, 2009 09:01PM

There was a rally at the high school, followed by a march to the Federal Building downtown where another series of speakers commemorated Dr. King's 80th birthday.

Not long into the march, after about a block, people started shouting Obama campaign slogans.

"Yes! We Can!"
"Obama! No Drama!"
"Change has come!"

The blue signs most people were carrying portrayed Dr. King and Obama side-by-side.

At noon tomorrow morning, Obama is scheduled to take the oath of office. With his left hand on President Lincoln’s Bible and nearly 41 years since Dr. King was assassinated, he’ll become the first African American president.

"If there's ever a day to get out today is the day," E. Ali said. Ali is a longshoreman, a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19.

When he found out Obama had won the election he said, "I have never been more proud to be an American." Ali added that he wished that his grandmother, who recently died, could be here to see this.

"I know she knows," he said.

But it wasn't all about Obama at the celebration today.

Clarence Dancer took the day off of work at Boeing to participate in the Dr. King celebration. He marched from Garfield to the Federal Building.

During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, Dancer said that like many he didn't really understand what King was doing. But now he said that Dr. King had a "crystal ball."

Dr. King, he said taught "self-development of the individual." Dancer added that, "Whatever job you have, do that the best you can and work your way up."

That's one of the messages of Dr. King, Dancer said. Another is "patience with the future."

While not all of the battles have yet to be won, he said, "We've opened some doors that were shut."

Another marcher, James, said there's a "whole new generation that's going to have to learn the message" of Dr. King.

"I honor the principles that are being celebrated today," James said. "It's a good day."

Ali, the longshoreman, participated in the Civil Rights Movement. He said he's from New Jersey and was a member of the 1960s Black Liberation Front. Unlike Dr. King, he wasn't non-violent, Ali said. But non-violence was the only way blacks, he said, can achieve their goal of equality.

In terms of great leaders, Dancer said, "I would put Obama in that category. Once you step into your greatness there's nothing you can't accomplish."

According to the Seattle Police there were no arrests and no injuries, said Lt. Sean O'Donnell.

Dr. King's birthday was actually on the fifteenth. He was murdered in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968.

Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration at Garfield High School. Jan. 19, 2009
Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration at Garfield High School. Jan. 19, 2009