By Miriam Raftery
January 7, 2017 (East San Diego) – The National Action Network (NAN) along with a coalition of African-American activists, labor, and families of police shooting victims held a press conference last week to announce the first annual Martin Luther King march in San Diego “reclaiming MLK’s day and dream” on January 16h. The event will be four days before inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump “to set the tone on important issues regarding the civil rights community in San Diego and beyond” as well as to hold elected officials at all levels accountable on key issues, states a press release from NAN.
Rev. Shane Harris from NAN and Rev. Edward Johnson, senior pastor at New Horizon Baptist Church in Lemon Grove, spoke last week at the church to help mobilize the Lemon Grove community to participate. Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez along with Councilmembers David Arambula and Jennifer Mendoza also joined the effort.
“In San Diego every year there is an MLK parade that is not led entirely by an African-American coalition or people that hare heavily connected to the issues that people who Dr. King fought for are going through and facing,” says Rev. Harris. He also criticizes the parade for having become “very militarized, which is totally out of the context of what Dr. King stated very clearly about America’s quickness to run to war, but not serve the homeless or help the country’s racial divide. The parade was initially a very good idea, but they took it out of the black community and put it in downtown San Diego on Harbor Drive, where there is not really a connection with people in the inner parts of the city.”
The San Diego march calls on leaders at national, state and local levels to address four issues: police reform, mass incarceration/private prisons, workers’ rights, and homelessness.
The families of Alfred Olango, an African-American man shot by an El Cajon police officer last year, and families of others shot by local police have joined with hotel workers, Service Employees International Union, religious leaders and civil rights advocates in the effort. The march comes on the heels of Reverend Al Sharpton's National March in Washington D.C. "We shall not be moved".
“The March will highlight that It's time to reclaim what Dr. King represented especially in times like these and fight for what we believe in,” NAN’s release concludes.
Marchers will gather at the corner of Park Blvd. and B Street at 2 p.m. on January 16th. The march will begin at 2:45 p.m. down B Street to City Hall, where a rally will be held at 202 C Street at 3:15 p.m.