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Detroiters honor civil rights past, present on MLK Day

People line up for the MLK Legacy march outside Detroit's Martin Luther King high school
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
People line up for the MLK Legacy march outside Detroit's Martin Luther King high school

Hundreds of people descended on Detroit’s Martin Luther King, Junior high school Monday morning for a march honoring the civil rights leader.

It was just one of many events honoring Dr. King that took place around Metro Detroit.

Hundreds of people came out for the third annual Detroit Public Schools-sponsored march, many of them students. But some adults, like Alicia Gassiamo, came to honor a figure whose sacrifices they say made a real difference in their lives.

Gassiamo isn't sure younger people really grasp King’s importance. "Sometimes I don’t feel that they understand," she said. "And that’s because of maybe even their parents not being raised in that era. And so now we have to educate the children and the parents.”

 Inside the school, Johnnie Hamilton was signing up soon-to-be 18-year-old students to vote in November.

Hamilton says that in itself is a testament to King’s influence. But despite the numerous accomplishments of the civil rights movement, she thinks there are still more subtle battles left to fight.

“Racism is not something that’s there. It’s learned, it’s taught," Hamilton said. "So we have to make sure that people stop teaching it.”

Many people in Detroit and Michigan have mobilized against the state’s emergency manager law as a new civil rights issue, saying it disenfranchises voters in predominantly black communities.

King had a special relationship with Detroit. He gave the first version of his “I Have a Dream” speech at Cobo Hall in 1963.

King also delivered an annual Lenten sermon at Detroit’s Central United Methodist church. He gave the final one, called "The Meaning of Hope," less than a month before his death.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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