Holley Lacy (left) leads the MLK Celebration Ensemble with Sandra Wright (center) and Maria Caycedo on Sunday afternoon during the Greater Everett Area Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration at the First Presbyterian Church of Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Holley Lacy (left) leads the MLK Celebration Ensemble with Sandra Wright (center) and Maria Caycedo on Sunday afternoon during the Greater Everett Area Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration at the First Presbyterian Church of Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

MLK celebration honors leaders, urges people to uproot racism

Snohomish County Black Heritage Committee’s annual gathering featured art, essays, music, prayers and speeches.

EVERETT— If injustice won’t pause for a global pandemic, then justice can’t take a sick day.

With hand sanitizer pumped onto guests’ hands as they entered, masks required and windows open, around 100 people gathered Sunday for the Greater Everett Area Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration. The gathering featured art and essays from local students, as well as music, prayers and speeches celebrating strides — and the work that remains — for civil rights and equity.

Alvin C. Moore, pastor of Jubilee Church of God in Christ in Everett, said he knew several people who had died in the past couple of days. But that grief did not keep him from joining the long-running annual event organized by the Snohomish County Black Heritage Committee.

“It’s a privilege to be here in the midst of COVID,” Moore said.

Moore and other speakers implored those in the pews at First Presbyterian Church of Everett or watching the program online to pursue justice. It’s not someone else’s job, it’s up to everyone, he said.

“A bullet might have taken the life of Martin Luther King, but his dream lives on,” Moore said.

Janice Greene, president of NAACP Snohomish County, said people think about the Civil Rights Movement as a fixed era in American history. But she sees it as a continuum and an ongoing perfection of the American union.

Janice Greene, NAACP Snohomish County president, delivers an expressions address Sunday during the Greater Everett Area Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration at First Presbyterian Church of Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Janice Greene, NAACP Snohomish County president, delivers an expressions address Sunday during the Greater Everett Area Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration at First Presbyterian Church of Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Recent racist incidents in schools, a bar, and even a pedestrian bridge highlight the insidious nature of those societal ills.

“We can not be complacent and just let injustice take over,” Greene said.

People should pray, be vocal about access to “everything that makes a community vital,” and hold leaders accountable, she said.

“You don’t have to do everything, but please do something,” Greene said.

Keynote speaker Nekya Johnson, a diversity, equity and inclusion advocate who works for the Community Foundation of Snohomish County, said people “in plain sight” across the county work to uproot systemic racism.

She and other speakers noted the loss of Judge Eric Lucas, the first person of color elected to the Snohomish County Superior Court bench. He died in September at the age of 67.

Melvin Darby claps to the music of the MLK Celebration Ensemble during the Greater Everett Area Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration at the First Presbyterian Church of Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Melvin Darby claps to the music of the MLK Celebration Ensemble during the Greater Everett Area Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration at the First Presbyterian Church of Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A slideshow displayed images of Lucas through parts of his career, which included time as president of NAACP Snohomish County. It also showed images of his legacy through the Prodigies for Peace youth art and essay contest, whose latest winners were recognized Sunday.

The video tribute concluded with the words, “Because of you, we are. Thank you for your service.”

A flower planting in Lucas’ honor was scrapped by the pandemic.

“I encourage you to take invisible seeds,” Johnson said, “and plant them in and around Snohomish County.”

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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