EVERETT — For a second year, COVID-19 has scuttled plans for a march and rally in memory of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
However, that won’t stop organizers with the Snohomish County Black Heritage Committee from celebrating King and his dream. Instead of a weekend full of in-person events, the group pivoted to a day of service, with free COVID-19 testing 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and a vaccination clinic from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday.
It culminates with an in-person — albeit smaller — Greater Everett MLK Community Celebration. Masks and social distancing are required to attend the event from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church, 2936 Rockefeller Ave. in Everett. It will also be live-streamed.
Chairwoman DanVonique Bletson-Reed said the committee followed the lead of a King quote, “Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.”
“We’re not one to throw in the towel or give up easily,” Bletson-Reed said. “Since COVID is the issue, the reason we can’t get together, we decided to help keep people safe.”
They’re connecting with groups that serve or work with people of color for testing and vaccination. Data has shown people of color are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, which the state Department of Health says is because of systemic health and social inequalities.
Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders had the highest seven-day COVID case rate increase per 100,000 people in the state as of Jan. 7. Black people were the second-highest demographic for new cases and hospitalization rates.
Black or African American people made up about 4.4% of the state’s population estimate, according to 2021 Census data. About 4% of people who initiated vaccination in the state are Black, per state health department data.
The committee has 150 tests available and asks that people register online at bit.ly/MLKTESTING before Friday at Mill Creek Foursquare Church, 1415 164th St. SW in Lynnwood. Another 50 are available if more people show up, given the meteoric rise in cases and long lines for testing the past two weeks.
“We’re gonna roll up our sleeves and help try to beat this,” Bletson-Reed said.
The in-person celebration Sunday features art, essays, music and a speech.
Over 30 young people will be honored for their art and essays in the Prodigies for Peace contest started by Judge Eric Lucas, who died in September. Lucas was the first person of color elected as a Snohomish County Superior Court judge.
Instead of the large choir that used to sing gospel music, a smaller MLK Community ensemble will perform this year.
Nekya Johnson, director of community impact and grant-making at the Community Foundation of Snohomish County, is the keynote speaker.
The First Presbyterian Church’s attendance for the event is limited to about 200 people. Bletson-Reed said she hopes everyone across Snohomish County considers attending, if comfortable doing so. But if not, people can tune in through the committee’s Facebook page, facebook.com/SCBHC.
“Despite the obstacles, despite what we’re dealing with, we want the people of Snohomish County, our community, to feel encouraged,” Bletson-Reed said.