The sound of drums, tambourines, homemade shakers and laughter filled the city streets as community members marched from CSU’s Oval to Old Town Square on Monday in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“I come every year and get as many people as I can to come with me,” said Haimy Assefa, a junior at Rocky Mountain High School.
Crowds gathered at 11:00 a.m. at the university Oval as drummers from the group Won Gay filled the area with West African rhythms.
Won Gay member Marx Thompson said that their music is often played at celebrations.
“It’s a time of celebration,” Thompson said. “It’s a gathering of people who care about his message of peace and respect. The drums will tell it all.”
Keynote speaker Fannaye Belle Evans stood perched at the top of the stairs of the Administration Building delivering a speech surrounding this year’s theme, “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On…Not a Day Off!”
Evans spoke of the progress that CSU and the community have made in making Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream come true.
“The presence of people at the oval is a way of showing the greatest and deepest respect to a great man and a great leader,” Evans said.
Despite successes in furthering equality among community members, Evans said that there is still much to be accomplished.
“Great strides have been made, but you know what, there is much to be done,” Evans said.
Evans challenged onlookers to live Dr. King’s dream everyday, to be vocal, to bring people together and to think critically about community issues. With command, she encouraged community members to demand legislation of equal access to quality education and Medicare and to take an active role in dismantling economic struggles.
Having been involved in Denver’s march during previous years, Evans said attendance, participation and the planning process is geared toward smaller audiences but Fort Collins’ march was planned with the same element of seriousness and effort.
“It was all planned for a smaller group, but the caliber was the same,” Evans said. “There is an element of closeness that we don’t get with an enormous amount of people.”
Evans said the crowd was intent and focused on the message delivered.
“People were engaged, intense and listening,” she said. “I could see people and feel that they were engaged and listening.”
“He means a lot to me because we share the same birthday,” said Laura Martin, president of Black Student Alliance. “If it weren’t for people like him, I probably wouldn’t be able to walk down the street without getting harassed.”
Mari Strombom, the director of Campus Activities Center said the event differs from other years because of variation in the theme. The theme is centered on being involved in positive changes in the community and remembering King for his involvement.
“Rather than it being just a day off, make it a day on the memory of Martin Luther King, Strombom said. “We are encouraging people to make it a day on.”
“As a result of the theme, we decided to change the audio clip,” Strombom said. “This year we will play an excerpt from the drum major speech, part of a sermon he gave in February 1968, two months before he was assassinated.”
In accordance to the drum major theme community members were encouraged to bring precession instruments from home and the Student Community Involvement Team (S.C.I.T.) handed out homemade shakers with quotes from Martin Luther King taped to them.
“We hope people will follow through on his message of service,” Strombom said. “We also hope people will leave with a greater awareness of who Dr. King was and what he did for all of us.”
The crowd marched east on Laurel St. to College Ave. and proceeded north to Old Town Square.
The event finished with a concert performed by the Abyssinian Church Children’s Choir, a sound clip from the drum major speech and final words from Fannye Belle Evans.