‘Let’s grapple with the truth of how far we have to go’: Local activists say MLK Day is a time for action

The Life And Legacy Of Martin Luther King Jr. In 23 Iconic Images
Charles Harrity

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., tells a press conference in Chicago, March 24, 1967 that civil rights demonstrations in Chicago “…will be on a much more massive scale than last summer.” King said marches will include some by African American pupils to all-white schools. (AP Photo/Charles Harrity)

SPOKANE, Wash. – The annual Martin Luther King Jr. unity rally and march may have been canceled this year, but that did not stop people from continuing to honor his legacy. 

Local activists say this is not necessarily a time for celebration, but instead a time for action. 

“How do we really look at each other and view each other and then take an honest stock of where we’re at?” asked Kurtis Robinson. “And yes, let’s clap about the success that we have, but let’s grapple with the truth of how far we have to go and get to it.”

Robinson, Vice President of the Spokane NAACP chapter, is an advocate for cultural change. He says he hopes people will take the holiday as an opportunity to get grounded in their commitment. 

“When we start talking about, as an American society, what actually changed, we have to therefore own how we actually were, right? And Dr. King, I think the biggest thing he brought to the table is you can’t do that. You have to own how you were and have to move forward,” Robinson said. 

Former Washington State University men’s basketball coach George Raveling crossed paths with Dr. King. He was the very first African American head coach in what was then the Pac 8 and now the Pac 12 Conference. 

He was a security guard, standing just behind Dr. King when he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. When it was over, Raveling asked if he could keep the speech. 

“So I now had the speech folded, but remember no one knew it was going to take on that historic context,” Raveling said. 

Last year, Raveling gave the speech to his alma mater, Villanova University. 

“The legacy of being, not only able to come to terms of the true past, of how America has been, but also cement and ground ourselves in a hope for a more realized, equitable American society for the future,” Robinson said. 

Robinson says progress has been made – from civil rights to housing and to voting – but more needs to be done. 

The Spokane NAACP is hosting a virtual event to honor Dr. King on Monday night. It begins at 7 p.m. and information to join the Zoom event can be found here. 

The MLK Center is also encouraging people to stay involved throughout the month. Click here for ideas to get involved. 

RELATED: Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day unity rally, march canceled because of COVID surge

PHOTOS: The life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in 23 iconic images