Dec 142008
Authors: Jim Sojourner

In August of 1963, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched on Washington in support of the Civil Rights Bill under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On Jan. 19 of next year, Fort Collins will have a march of its own to commemorate the birth of the historic leader and to celebrate the civil rights advances humanity has made since that late summer day more than four decades ago.

After being canceled the past two years due to frigid temperatures, parade organizer Lance Wright said the one-mile march route, which has traditionally ended outside in Old Town, has been changed.

To accommodate speakers and parade marchers, Wright said this year’s march will begin in Old Town, proceed down College Ave. to Laurel Street, stomp across the center of the Oval to Isotope Drive and end in the Lory Student Center’s Main Ballroom, where the keynote speaker will present.

“The parade signifies unity, coming together and the empowerment of meeting in that context,” said Marlon Blake, an employee in CSU’s Black Student Services office. Moreover, he said, that unity and empowerment is within “not just black people, but all people.”

Wright stressed that the new plan makes the march more accessible to all community members in all weather — rain or shine, hot or cold — and allows for enhanced video and audio capabilities.

Most importantly, he said, the new plan makes community involvement in the historic significance and symbolism of the march easier.

“I think it’s really important in all communities,” Wright said about the history and civil issues the parade underscores, “but it’s particularly important in a predominantly white community.”

He said many people often think, incorrectly, of the civil rights movement as something that happened in the past and ended.

“(This celebration) is a key reminder that there are still civil rights struggles going on today,” Wright said. “It’s both historic and current.”

Dawnelle Schlagel, a sophomore psychology major, said she, too, believes that remembering and understanding the past is critical for shaping a bright present and future.

“We learn from our past and learn from our mistakes,” Schlagel said. “If we forget, we can’t learn.” Blake said he feels the march has a special significance because of its symbolic ties to the many marches that took place around the country during the 1960s and said communities need to commemorate those struggles to keep reminding themselves that there is “still work to do.”

“It’s important to always remember where we are from and where we need to go,” he said.

In addition to the march, which begins at 11 a.m. Jan. 19, a poetry and essay reading, showcasing the works of Poudre Valley School District students, will be held at the CSU Bookstore in the Lory Student Center at 9:30 a.m.

Keynote presenter Denise Hall, who is the director of Mother Earth Reverence Farms and Wellness Veterinary Clinic in Greeley and an intern minister at Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, will speak in the ballroom to conclude the parade at 11:45 a.m.

Roads along the parade route will be closed to traffic during the event.

Senior Reporter Jim Sojourner can be reached at

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