For the past few weeks I’ve been waiting for Martin Luther King’s Day to come. I had been wanting to go to the Freedom Train and join in the celebration in San Francisco for King’s legacy. It was a lot of fun. A diverse group of people went on the train in San Jose, and everyone was having a good time talking to each other and sharing about their lives. When we reached San Francisco, we went on a march to Yuerba Buena Gardens, where various events took place to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. I figure what better way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day than to go on a march.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley began the Freedom Train from San Jose to San Francisco in the 1980s, when several Freedom Trains all over the country were run to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The 54 mile route is about the same distance as the famous 1965 march. In the train various speakers will talk about various stages in the civil rights movement and passengers who participate in the civil rights movement share their stories.
One of the reasons that I wanted to participate this year in the march and the San Francisco celebrations was that I wanted to meet some of these Civil Rights participants and to listen to their stories. These individuals are now in their late 60s, 70s and 80s, and they may not be around for long to share their experiences to younger generations. As an Asian American, I wanted to thank them for what they did to help not just African Americans, but for all Americans. The Feminist Movement, the Asian American Civil Rights Movement, the LGBT rights movement, the immigrant rights movement and all other movements for equality and human rights owe a debt to the African American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Nadra Kareem Nittle wrote a blog about how the Asian American Movement of the 1960s and early 1970s was deeply influenced by the African American Civil Rights Movement:
In the 1960s and ’70s, Asian Americans mobilized for a slew of political causes, including the development of ethnic studies programs in universities, the end of the Vietnam War and reparations for Japanese Americans placed in internment camps during World War II.
How was yellow power, or the Asian-American Civil Rights Movement, born? In watching African Americans expose institutional racism and government hypocrisy, Asian Americans began to identify the ways in which they, too, had faced discrimination in the U.S.
“The ‘black power’ movement caused many Asian Americans to question themselves,” wrote Amy Uyematsu in “The Emergence of Yellow Power,” a 1969 editorial. “‘Yellow power’ is just now at the stage of an articulated mood rather than a program—disillusionment and alienation from white America and independence, race pride and self-respect.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first proposed as a national holiday after King’s death by United States Representative John Conyers (a Democrat from Michigan) and United States Senator Edward Brooke (a Republican from Massachusetts). After several years of lobbying the government, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill on November 2, 1983, creating a federal holiday to honor King. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.
The National Martin Luther King Day of Service was proposed by former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen action volunteer service in honor of Dr. King. The federal legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 23, 1994.
I had a wonderful time watching the celebration and talking to different people. Here are some of the photos that I took of the event.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Officers for Justice Peace Officers Association
A sign about the recent case of Marissa Alexander.. For months her husband had been beating her while she was pregnant. To stop another beating, Alexander fired a warning shot into the ceiling. She had claimed self-defense, tried to invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” law and rejected plea deals that could have gotten her a much shorter sentence. A jury found her guilty as charged: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Because she fired a gun while committing a felony, Florida’s mandatory-minimum gun law dictated the 20-year sentence.
A youtube video of the 2010 San Jose Freedom Train
A youtube video of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in San Francisco in 2011
The King Legacy of Service 25th Anniversary video tells the story of how Dr. King’s birthday evolved into a national day of service
A youtube video of the 2013 National Day of Service – MLK Day Weekend – National Mall, Washington D.C.
The full speech of “I Have Been To The Mountain Top”