By KEN PARK
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Ga., and is one of the most notable names in the progress of living American history.
He was a Baptist minister and activist who earned a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for practicing non-violence during the civil rights movement.
It is on this day, since 1983, that the nation takes time to remember and reflect on its progress in civil rights; to remember Dr. King’s dream, and the American creed, that all men are created equal.
At the Riverside Community Church in Hood River, church leaders from throughout the Gorge, along with volunteers and youth groups, came together to put on a service in honor of Dr. King.
The message conveyed can be summed up in the four words on the poster board at the altar: “Love, Justice, Color and Hope,” as well as the phrase “somos uno,” which means “we are one.”
The service began with an audio excerpt of one of Dr. King’s speeches “Where do we go from here?” which was delivered in Atlanta in 1967.
“Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home. Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education. Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity. Let us be dissatisfied until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin. Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol will be housed by a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy, and who will walk humbly with his God. Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. Let us be dissatisfied until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid. Let us be dissatisfied, and men will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout, “White Power!” when nobody will shout, “Black Power!” but everybody will talk about God’s power and human power.”
The excerpt was followed by comments from church leaders and members of the Gorge Ecumenical Ministries, who put together the whole service.
Rev. Vicky Stifter, along with an English-to-Spanish interpreter, spoke first.
“Tonight, we are all dreamers, honoring the life of dreamer Dr. King,” said Rev. Stifter.
The double meaning of the word dreamer was not lost on the congregation, prior to the service, workshops were held, that would teach people how to be an advocate for those affected by the repeal of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program (DACA) as well as provide resources for those affected.
Stifter then introduced the mayor of Hood River, Paul Blackburn, and asked members of the Hood River city council to stand and be recognized. She also informed the congregation that all Oregon’s government representatives had been invited to attend the event, but none were present.
Niko Yasui, a fourth-generation Hood River local and Japanese American, then spoke about his grandparents’ experience in internment camps during World War II; how that personal history has shaped the way he teaches his own children about prejudice. He spoke about the pride he has in his city, after a proclamation was made by Mayor Blackburn last summer. The proclamation recognized Hood River’s history and the role it had in that embarrassing part of our nation’s history, and the city’s creed to never allow it to happen again.
Yasui read the closing paragraph of the proclamation. “That we, along with the people of Hood River Oregon, pause to reflect upon the lessons learned from the Japanese American incarceration experience, appreciate the contributions that immigrants and refugees bring to our nation and commit to valuing all Americans, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or country of origin.”
Yasui’s story took the congregation back to the distant past, but the next speaker’s story would bring them to the present and the hopeful future.
24-year-old Estela Munoz Villareal, is an, in her words, “undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic dreamer” who left half of her heart in Mexico.
Munoz and her two younger siblings were brought to the states by her grandparents in 2001 to be raised by her father. In her speech, Munoz shared the emotional toll the threat of deportation takes on a family, all the secrecy, all the fear, at the same time, all the hope and promise.
Munoz closed her speech with a plea for a clean DACA act that has now become a political football.
“We are here, we are present,” said Munoz.
The congregation was on its feet.
The service closed with the choir leading the congregation with the hymn “We Shall Overcome,” a staple song sung when Dr. King marched.