By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
EVERETT — The message was to keep marching. To keep fighting for the rights of all. To find your calling and to accept it.
A celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunday honored a civil rights leader who helped reshape history. Though this was a chance to recognize King’s legacy, it wasn’t a time to dwell on the past.
“We all know what he’s done, but I want to talk about him accepting his calling and how we all have a calling in our lives,” said DanVo’nique Reed, who coordinated Sunday’s activities and delivered the keynote speech.
More than 100 people filled the pews at Everett’s Spirit of Grace United Methodist Church for the event, now in its 26th year. Speakers included Ray Miller of the Snohomish County NAACP and Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929. A federal holiday to mark the date falls on the third Monday of January.
King’s triumphs as a civil rights leader included the iconic “I Have a Dream Speech” in 1963. He was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
The Everett tribute began at 3 p.m. with more than a dozen members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Choir filing through the pews to the front of the church on 3530 Colby Ave. Their songs were by turns inspiring and soothing, with moments of joy and sadness.
“Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won,” they sang from the hymn, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” The song, composed more than a century ago, also is called the “Negro National Anthem.”
The choir debuted in 1986 at Everett’s first Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Several churches have hosted the event over the years.
Sunday’s program bore the title, “We Can’t Stop Now! We Must Reach the Promise Land.”
The title stressed the importance of continuing King’s work, despite the many civil rights breakthroughs since his lifetime.
Paul Stoot Jr., 21, of Everett, directed the choir and summed up the message with the words, “peace, love, kindness, religion and God in our hearts.”
“Even though Martin Luther King isn’t with us, we need to keep the dream alive,” Stoot said.
Children, ages 4 to 16, performed to the Stevie Wonder song “Black Man,” to recognize great inventors, soldiers, scientists and others of all races who have made this country strong.
“Everybody has contributed to making America what it is,” said Monet Bletson, 32, of Marysville, who directed the youth tribute with Erie Wheeler, 30.
Jeanne Misha Carter drew on 35 years of martial-arts practice by performing a dance, “The Soul Eternal.”
Throughout the program, there was time to reflect and time to ponder. Up-tempo songs lifted spirits. The crowd got a reminder to that effect from Vernette Little, who was representing Naval Station Everett and Solemn Word Church.
“We’re here to celebrate and I don’t know too many people who celebrate in silence,” Little shouted. “I don’t know how many people who celebrate in sadness.”
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org.