Before winning a gold medal playing basketball with the U.S. Olympic Team in 1968, before joining the Seattle SuperSonics, and before succeeding in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, Spencer Haywood picked cotton for 12 hours a day with his mother and nine siblings.
On Thursday, Haywood will be at Edmonds Community College as part of the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. The free event, at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the Black Box Theatre on campus, is one of several programs planned in Snohomish County over the next week to honor King’s legacy.
This spring will mark the 50th anniversary of the civil rights leader’s assassination. King was just 39 on April 4, 1968, when he was fatally shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
Haywood, 68, is scheduled to give a keynote speech at EdCC touching on his own fight for rights and against addiction. It was 1971 when, in the Haywood v. the National Basketball Association case, the Supreme Court ruled against a requirement that players had to wait four years after high school graduation before being drafted by a pro team.
“I was fighting for my mother, still in Silver City, Mississippi, picking cotton for $2 a day. She was able to get off her knees,” Haywood said in his hall of fame speech.
The Rev. Greg Jackson, who lives in Marysville, also grew up in Mississippi. Jackson, 61, will direct the MLK Celebration Choir at the 2018 Greater Everett Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration. It’s scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Everett’s Bethany Christian Assembly.
Gospel music by the MLK choir and other artists, plus a keynote speech by Judy Hoff, will be highlights of the celebration, which Jackson said has been an Everett tradition for more than 20 years. Hoff, who runs the nonprofit Hoff Foundation, is involved in transforming lives through Esther’s Place and Queen It’s a New Day. Those local programs serve women who are homeless or otherwise in need.
“My family was very much involved in the Civil Rights Movement,” Jackson said. Although just a boy, he clearly remembers when King was killed.
“We lived in the same neighborhood as Medgar Evers, another civil rights leader who was assassinated,” Jackson said. Evers was the NAACP’s Mississippi field secretary and worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi. He was slain in 1963, but it wasn’t until 1994 that his killer was convicted in a third murder trial.
Jackson, who moved to Washington in 1977, is music minister at Everett’s Second Baptist Church, where his brother Charlie Jackson is pastor. While he leads music at Second Baptist, Greg Jackson also is pastor at the Rock of Salvation Community Church in Surrey, British Columbia. “I do my brother’s services in the morning, then go to Surrey in the afternoon,” he said.
At Sunday’s event, the MLK Celebration Choir will perform a number of songs, among them “Ain’t Going to Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” “Ride on King Jesus” and a version of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
While Jackson sees “a lot of hope,” he said today’s political climate isn’t helping end racial divisions. “There’s a different face to it, but it’s very much alive and well,” he said. Jackson fears for black men, “especially the young ones.”
People of all races are needed to overcome discrimination, he said. “Those who will not stand for it need to be willing to stand up,” Jackson said.
At 39, Marysville’s DanVo’nique Bletson-Reed is too young to remember when King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963. She wasn’t alive when King spoke out against the Vietnam War or spearheaded the Poor Peoples Campaign for economic justice.
Bletson-Reed, who’ll sing Sunday with the MLK Celebration Choir, said remembering the civil rights leader is as important today as ever. “To keep Dr. King’s legacy alive is critical, especially with what’s going on in our world,” she said.
“He stood up for people, for equality and justice. He was also a man of faith,” said Bletson-Reed, a case manager with Snohomish County Human Services. “It’s a dark world, with hatred and crime. People are looking for hope. It is possible to overcome.”
With three children, ages 12, 14 and 15, she said, “I have an obligation to not just talk about it, but be about it — and live it.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.
- Thursday: Spencer Haywood, former Seattle SuperSonic and 1968 U.S. Olympic Team basketball player, is scheduled to give a keynote speech at Edmonds Community College’s free Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Haywood, inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015, challenged an NBA eligibility rule, winning a court case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. The event is at 12:30 p.m. Thursday on campus in the Black Box Theatre, 20310 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood. Tickets at door starting at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, first-come, first-serve. Information: www.edcc.edu/news/stories/article/157
- Friday: The Whidbey Island Center for the Arts (WICA) will present “The Right to Dream,” an educational production about the struggle for civil rights in America, at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Performed by Living Voices, a Seattle historical theater troupe, the drama features solo performances and archival film. It focuses on an African-American student in Mississippi in the 1950s and ’60s. Tickets $15 for adults, $10 ages 18 and younger. The center is at 565 Camano Ave., Langley. Information: www.wicaonline.org
- Saturday: Living Interfaith Church will honor Martin Luther King Jr. with an event, “MLK Day: Embracing our Common Humanity,” 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Good Shepherd Baptist Church, 6915 196th St. SW, Lynnwood. Information: www.livinginterfaith.org
- Sunday: The 2018 Greater Everett Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration, with the theme “By Any Means Necessary, Keep Moving Forward,” is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Bethany Christian Assembly, 2715 Everett Ave., Everett. Includes music by the MLK Celebration Choir and guest musicians, pianist Mother Rosie Freeman and saxophonist Jacqueine Cobbs; and a keynote speech by Judy Hoff, author and founder of the Hoff Foundation.
- Sunday: “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” the 13th annual Whidbey community Martin Luther King Jr. event, is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Augustine’s-in-the Woods Episcopal Church in Freeland. Organized by the church’s Peace Fellowship, the theme is “Effective Resistance: From Rosa Parks to the Women’s March.” Interactive readings will connect the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s with today’s Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’s March and the removal of Confederate statues and symbols. Karl Olsen, music minister of Freeland’s Trinity Lutheran Church, will lead music. St. Augustine’s-in-the-Woods is at 5217 S. Honeymoon Bay Road, Freeland.
- Monday: Edmonds Community College students, employees, the Blue Heron Canoe Family and the public are scheduled to volunteer during a MLK National Day of Service event 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday at Gold Park, 6421 200th St. SW, Lynnwood. The park, with its “Stolja Ali” (place of medicine), is an ethnobotanical garden managed by EdCC. Volunteers will pull weeds, remove trash and put in native plants.