Rally and Remembrance: MLK Day

By United Way of King County, on January 17, 2023 | In Events, News, Racial Equity

It’s fitting that the county named after Dr. Martin Luther King since 1986 would go all out for the federal holiday that commemorates the legacy of the slain civil rights leader.


United Way of King County is one of the dozens of partners for one of the area’s largest MLK Day celebrations. This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day is in its 40th year and features a youth event, workshops, and a march and rally—all designed to give power and voice to the struggles of people of color.

The event began at Garfield High School—one of the venues King visited in 1961 during his only trip to Seattle—and also marked the 40th anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday being signed into federal law. Each year, the Martin Luther King Jr. Organizing Coalition themes the event on a key facet of King’s work and stages activities around the issue.

From left: Nikki Kovac of Seattle and Maria Arceo of Seattle moments before the march.

This year’s theme, “40 Years of Continuing King’s Mission,” showcased, as in year’s past, the need to speak to injustices locally, nationally and globally. The event aligns with United Way’s work toward a racially just society where people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable. Its youth event gave young people opportunities to speak about such issues as gun violence, mental health and education. Its workshops featured discussions on Black homeownership, early childhood education and storytelling.

Marchers head down 23rd Avenue in Seattle.

United Way of King County president and CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. said recently that MLK Day celebrations should call attention to the lack of progress made since King’s day. “While we honor Dr. King and his fight for civil rights every year,” McHenry said, “we must guard against failing to recognize the thousands and thousands of people whose conditions are not so different from those of the 1950s and 1960s that led Dr. King to act.”

The MLK Day march and rally concluded with festivities at Jimi Hendrix park adjacent to the Northwest African American Museum, which marked its reopening on Monday after being closed for more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and renovations. United Way features the museum as a venue for volunteer opportunities. To learn more, click here.


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