Since 1986 the third Monday in January has been recognized nationwide as ̶ Martin Luther King, Jr. day. In Idaho however, its official title is Martin Luther King Jr. – Idaho Human Rights day, often shortened to just Idaho Human Rights Day. For better or for worse, Idaho seems to want to buck the status quo. The event celebrating the prominent Civil Rights leader at the Human Rights Education Institute in downtown Coeur d’Alene, seemed to follow this trend.
The historic building – usually clad in various art depicting, describing and displaying human rights or a lack thereof – was adorned with posters of civil rights activists and some of their inspiring quotes. Along the front wall were 30 Articles of Human Rights alongside tables with information on various organizations in North Idaho advocating equality for our citizens.
The event was organized by AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). They, along with others displayed a myriad of information for various organizations in the area that help out people in need, from after school programs for children, to food banks offering free meals, and more.
To kick off the celebration, they played the film “Ruby Bridges,” the true story of a six-year-old African American girl who in 1960 was chosen to transfer to a better school, due to her academic success. A better school meaning: cleaner, nicer, with more money, more access, and only white people. Bridges attendance, as the first person of color at an all-white school, made waves in and outside of her community.
We switched gears with “The Line” and “Poor Kids,” short films showing the devastating impact poverty has on children and how anyone can go from being someone who lends help to someone who needs help. It illustrated very clearly how we are all subject to life’s myriad trials, and suggested that mere hard work is not the key to the American Dream. Perhaps the impoverished, homeless and hungry are not simply lazy.
Each person interviewed had started out with a pretty normal life. They were doing fine in life and then for one reason or another, they found themselves asking for help. Help with paying bills, getting food, taking care of their children, transportation; all needs the United Way of North Idaho is committed to addressing.
“In 2016 Kootenai county had 12.6 percent poverty rate,” said AmeriCorps VISTA member Gary Carter. With many families and children going without the general necessities of life, there is much work to be done. Luckily, there are many organizations committed to lending a hand, but they can’t do it alone. Check the links to see how you can help.
No MLK Jr. event would be complete without discussing the Reverend Doctor himself. The movie “Selma” is a powerful portrayal of the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. Faced with adversity, death threats, and rampant racism nationwide, people of color linked arms and peacefully marched to protest the illegal acts by white people in power keeping them from voting. After much turmoil, loss of life, and loss of blood, the U.S. government granted Americans of color the right to vote uninhibited.
Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others have challenged the status quo for the sake of equality. How do you feel about the state of equality in 2018? In Idaho, the U.S., the world?