By Noel Pai-Young | Lynnwood Times Staff
Hosted at the First Presbyterian Church located in Everett, the Snohomish Black Heritage Committee hosted an event for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The theme was, “crawl, walk, run, soar,” in reference to King’s exhortation to action for the advancement of civil rights and the fight against racism and segregation.
Chair of the Greater Everett MLK Celebration Committee and Snohomish County Human Services Case Manager, DanVo’nique Bletson-Reed, shared with the Lynnwood Times that Everett has been celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day since the first year of the holiday in 1983, a few years before it became a nationally recognized holiday in 1986.
The keynote speaker was JJ Frank, a pastor with Bible Way Victory Community Church of God in Christ and the Executive Director of Marysville’s YMCA.
Frank shared a message of the dangers of believing lies and falling into hate and division.
“Some of the hate that you see on the national level has been spilling into our communities and right on our doorstep,” said Frank. “You must turn to Jesus and seek truth.”
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth,” Frank read from John 1:14 regarding grace and truth.
Pastor Aaron Thompson from Marysville Foursquare Church followed Frank with an opening prayer recanting another story from the Book of John – Jesus speaking to the Samaritan women. This was considered culturally rebellious during the time of Jesus.
Thompson’s message reminded listeners that like Jesus, King showed courage by confronting the social barriers of his day.
Students and young adults from the Snohomish Black Heritage Committee, Black Student Union, NAACP Youth Works, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth also spoke at the event.
Ja’Syrie Darby, raised in a musical family and church worship, sang the National Anthem. A 2020 Mariner High School graduate, Darby shared her story of succeeding to have the Black National Anthem as part of high school’s tradition in celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Noah Jackson, also raised in a musical family, played piano and sang, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” by Sam Cooke. An original writer, Jackson uses music as a tool to communicate and inspire.
When speaking with the Lynnwood Times, Julien Odom, a student at Jackson High School, stated that mass incarceration and gentrification are issues that need to be addressed. He warned against miseducation and the impact it has on society.
Zoe Yates, student from Monroe High School and Black Student Union President quoted Dr. King. “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.”
“When you have a tough conversation about racial inequality, you are making a difference. When you educate yourself on white privilege and how to be an active ally to Black people, you are making a difference,” said Yates.
Yates shared with Lynnwood Times that something she encourages all to do is to take responsibility for personal action and to embody the change they hope to see.
Representation for Black owned businesses was also present. Owner of Black Coffee Northwest Cafe and community activist DarNesha Wearywas accompanied by her goddaughter who made an opening statement for Weary’s address.
“Today is the day that you start something new… Go back to your same job with a different strategy to disrupt, go back to your churches, the same building, and disrupt racism. Push the Black agenda and make sure that’s always a priority. You show up and do what you need to do,” said Weary.
Weary shared that 2020 was a hard year for her and her business because of discrimination and harassment that they’ve experienced on a daily basis – a firebomb threat to her building and the vandalizing of one of her signs with swastikas.
Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02 D) as well as Raymond Miller, CEO of Vets Place Northwest, spoke to attendees with a commitment to fighting systemic racism.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. was an agitator, he was an activist, he made trouble — good trouble — necessary trouble, but he did not accept the status quo,” said Miller. “He stood up to authority… He and his followers participated in civil disobedience by peacefully protesting unjust laws and practices.”
The committee is already planning next year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event and they encourage others to get involved and attend.
The live stream of the event can be found via Facebook here.