Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became an international icon by speaking to the struggles of his time — issues like the burgeoning civil-rights movement and the Vietnam War.
But as thousands of New Mexicans took to the streets in Albuquerque on Sunday to remember his life, many said they were looking to King once again for wisdom in dark times.
“It’s time to get involved. It’s time to make your feelings known,” said Barry West, a 25-year Albuquerque resident who attended the state Martin Luther King Jr. Commission’s parade for the first time. “If not now, when?
“It’s the general state of the country,” West continued. “It’s the direction the country seems to be headed in. It’s time to take a stand for what you believe in and what you believe the country should be.”
An estimated 3,500-4,000 people participated in the parade, which followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue from University to Civic Plaza, and a ceremony at the plaza, said Kimberly Shelby, interim executive director of the commission. The first parade, 28 years ago, attracted about 150 people, she said.
Politicians, including U.S. Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez and several state legislators, were also present Sunday.
So were several groups from high schools and church youth groups. It’s encouraging to see, Shelby said, because it gives young people who couldn’t see King in person a chance to help carry on his name.
The parade, though in honor of an African-American leader, included other groups and ethnicities, including young dancers from Laguna Pueblo and the Pledge of Allegiance in both Spanish and English.
“Dr. King wasn’t about race,” Shelby said. “He was about peace and equality.”
JoElla Redmon, former executive director of the state commission, was at Civic Plaza on Sunday, saying she hoped to see the event continue to grow in size and diversity.
“The events are important,” West said, standing quietly to the side of the seated crowd at Civic Plaza, “because they are a reminders that we still hold certain truths to be self-evident.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal