DES MOINES — State and community leaders encouraged Iowans to not only remember Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to equality and community but to pass on his legacy to future generations during an annual celebration commemorating the life of the civil-rights leader.
Several hundred people attended the state’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration held at The Euclid Room in Des Moines. The governor mention the event’s theme, ‘looking back, marching forward’ and its continued importance, during his speech.
“I think it’s a very fitting one: to remember the past, remember the great example that [King] set but also to be inspired to march forward and to see what kind of impact his legacy can have on our lives and the lives of everyone in this country,” Branstad said. “We think of the lessons he taught us and how we can use them today and how it’s so important to use these lessons to teach future generations why violence is never the answer in conflict or social change.”
Interspersed throughout the program were performances by Movement 515, a youth performance group, honoring King and the responsibilities of their generation to continue the fight for equality.
Keynote speaker Redditt Hudson, a regional field organizer for region four for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, spoke to the barriers King and the Civil Rights movement helped to crumble. During his 30-minute speech, Hudson said current issues like voter ID laws and racial disparities in the criminal justice system are some examples of the need to continue working for equality.
“If Dr. King were alive today, you can be sure he’d want any celebration of him and his life wrapped up quickly so that we can get back to work on all that we’re confronted with,” he said as the audience applauded.
Branstad recognized three Iowans for their continual commitment of service to Iowa and in their communities. Simon Estes, an international renowned singer, Royceann Porter of Iowa City and Charles Mercer of Ankeny received the 2014 MLK Achievement award for striving “to make life better for Iowans.”
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan said in a statement citizens should always remember King’s commitment to justice, community and service.
“He spoke of a dream of a more equal America, one free from discrimination and one where everyone can fully participate in democracy,” he said. “Today and every day, we must honor his legacy by recommitting ourselves to bending the arc of history towards justice for all.”