Roughly 250 community members came out to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds Monday morning to honor and reflect upon the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his monumental work during the civil rights movement.
The occasion marked the 26th annual celebration and included noteworthy speakers, including Bremerton NAACP President Tracy Flood-Harris and Reverend James P. Broughton III of the Damascus International Fellowship Church in Seattle. Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, and Bainbridge Island Mayor Leslie Schneider were also on hand to read proclamations and honor the late Dr. King.
The ceremony started with the presentation of colors by the Bremerton High School NJROTC, followed by an invocation from Reverend John Weston of the Silverdale United Methodist Church. The Holy Trinity Dance Troupe and MLK Community Choir provided songs and routines throughout the program.
“Whereas, Martin Luther King, Jr., during his career, brought a new and higher dimension of dignity to the black experience and accumulated political power for blacks beyond any they had ever possessed in their history of the United States,” Wheeler stated in the City of Bremerton’s proclamation. “He stands as a rare individual, espousing an extremely difficult philosophy, who armed his people with dignity and self-respect and served as the catalyst for significant and permanent social changes.”
“Now, therefore, I, Greg Wheeler, Mayor of the City of Bremerton, do hereby proclaim Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the City of Bremerton and I invite all citizens to join me in honoring his memory and his achievements.”
In Flood-Harris’ speech, she urged the community to do more than just talk about social, economic, and racial injustice that remains prevalent today.
“Many people in our county are unaware that we have a chapter,” she said regarding the NAACP Bremerton branch. “We still have mass incarceration, we still have voter suppression, our homeless population is out of control. The federal minimum wage is still under $8 an hour.”
“I stand before you today to challenge you to not just show up but to be engaged with what’s happening in this community. Get involved, talk to your police chief, talk to the judges, get to know them.”
Flood-Harris also read a 1961 quote from King that was featured in James H. Cone’s book Martin and Malcolm and America: A Dream or a Nightmare.
“For me, at least, the basis of my struggle for integration — and I mean the full integration of Negroes into every phase of American life — is something that began with a religious motivation … And I know that my religion has come to mean more to me than ever before. I have come to believe more and more in a personal God — not a process, but a person, a creative power with infinite love who answers prayers.”
Reverend Broughton III was the keynote speaker of the ceremony and urged folks to not look back, but forward for what we can do to continue fighting injustice in society.
“We are all different shades of one hue, we just have to remember that we need one another,” he said. “We know the stories, we’ve seen the films, we know about ‘I Have a Dream,’ we know all the quotes. I don’t want us to be stuck in this reflection, this memory of a great man who was also a great American. I want us to find our own place in history, find our place in the story, find what is our contribution to overcoming injustice.”
“It’s time for this revolution to evolve, it’s time to be a part of what’s really going on in society. It’s time for you to add your part so you can be part of the solution and not part of the problem, are you with me?” Reverend Broughton III asked emphatically. “No community is exempt from those kind of challenges. It’s easy to buffer myself than to get involved with the ugliness of oppression. I can lay it back on the government, but Dr. King didn’t do that.”
“Justice is not about punishment, justice starts with this premise that every single person is valuable to the community,” he said. “Everybody here is valuable. We are just sitting back as if we’re waiting for the next Jan. 20. It’s bigger than Dr. King. The sacrifice comes when you get involved with what’s happening.”