Community members gathered in Fort Collins Monday to celebrate
the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by marching from the CSU
campus to Old Town.
Following a debate about Malcolm X and MLK at the Durrell
center, marchers walked across campus to the Oval and listened to
speakers on the steps of the Administration Building, 1000 Oval
With the theme, “Courage to Build a Community of Peace,” members
of Fort Collins, Loveland and other surrounding areas sang songs as
they remembered MLK. Emcees Delijah Shead, a sophomore psychology
major and Derrick Dease, a Natural Resources Management senior
spoke to the crowd about an ideal community in which peace runs
through every part of the town.
“We must have the courage to build a community of peace in our
schools, workplace, community and streets,” Shead said. “There are
a number of individuals that have come together to celebrate.”
CSU President, Larry Penley gave a short speech explaining the
importance of honoring MLK.
“We must continue the vision of the dream for tolerance of all
people,” Penley said. “We have an individual responsibility to
encourage tolerance and an opportunity for all.”
Recognition of the student poetry and essay winners followed
Penley’s speech. The students read their work earlier in the day at
the CSU Bookstore. The readings were also broadcast on KRFC 88.9 FM
at 6:30 Monday night.
Sesugh Tor-Agbidye, 11, read MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream”
speech and the crowd shouted sounds of excitement when Tor-Agbidye
read “let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado.”
Following the speech, Rev. David Williams spoke of marching and the
reason for singing while doing so.
“(Marches) were a toll that would draw attention to injustices,”
Williams said. “When you are marching try to think about those
taunted by fire hoses. Don’t cry or hold your head down.
Williams spoke passionately about the need for celebration and
the freedom citizens of our country now have thanks to MLK.
“Lock arms and lock hands in this setting,” Williams said. “We
will do that today with the same spirit as MLK.”
The crowd started singing songs such as “This Little Light of
Mine” and “Down by the Riverside” as they marched toward Linden
Street. Police officers stopped traffic to allow the large group to
safely march toward their destination. March leaders included
Penley, Jesse Lauchner, the president of ASCSU, and Ray Martinez,
mayor of Fort Collins.
Once the group reached Linden Street music was played and
marchers once again listened to the words of Rev. Williams as he
localized MLK’s dream to the community of Fort Collins.
“We live in the beloved community of Fort Collins,” Williams
said. “This is where we build, plan, play, pray together.”
Shirl Portillos, a member of the MLK Committee and the Assistant
Director of Resident Life at CSU, wishes the turnout had been
better but seems optimistic about the long-term effect of the
“It’s important to continue his dream,” Portillos said. “I was
concerned we didn’t have more people, but hopefully next year it
will be bigger. These people here will tell others and so on.”
The committee, which has been planning the event since October
2003, moved the end of the march to Linden Street to accommodate
the community members, Portillos said.
“We had a lot of feedback that people couldn’t see or couldn’t
hear,” Portillos said. “This is a wider space that helps those
Rocky Mountain High School senior Melissa Tree, 17, enjoyed
spending time with friends while celebrating the life of MLK.
“I think it’s a neat thing that the community comes together,”
Tree said. “It’s important to be understanding.”
Tree has attended MLK marches in the past and was also unhappy
with the size of the crowd.
“There isn’t as big of a crowd,” Tree said. “I don’t think they
did enough advertising.”
The turnout and events touched Lee Evans, 59.
“(Race inequality issues) have been going on all my life time,”
Evans said. “I am not sure it’s getting better. It’s important to
be part of the solution.”
Evans, a retired school teacher from Loveland, once required his
students to attended MLK celebrations was impressed by the size of
the crowd and the participation of the younger generation.
“The change is going to take place with the children,” Evans
said. “We need to make ourselves heard.”