City College kicks off March for the Dream; Thousands march from campus to Capitol in memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

Thousands march on the Capitol in the 37th annual March for the Dream, celebrating MLK day on Jan. 15, 2018. | Photo by Bobby Castagna

Heather Roegiers

An estimated 30,000 people marched from City College to the California Capitol Jan. 15 in celebration of Martin Luther King’s legacy.

Participants in the 37th Annual Capitol March for the Dream gathered at City College in the morning fog, between 8 and 9 a.m. Radio personalities entertained the crowd while a ceremonial start of the march kicked off in the Oak Park Community Center, and then converged on campus for the official start.

“For the past 37 years, SCC has been a partner,” said City College President Michael Gutierrez. “(MLK Day) is a day for all Americans.”

Participants embarking from City College marched more than 3 miles to the Sacramento Convention Center.

“For me, MLK stands for hope,” said economics major Danny Thirakul. “It’s a big reminder of what we’re fighting for. That’s why we do it every year. When we do this march, we’re standing united, and it gives hope—not just to the people doing it, but it’s a symbol for everybody of what’s possible.”

Horns blared their battle cries from a motorcade of old-fashioned cars and motorcycles, as well as from the brass sections of various high school marching bands. King’s voice returned to the streets through loudspeakers, with recordings from his “I have a dream” speech playing from a Corvette.

“MLK Day is to honor the legacy of an incredible individual, and hopefully reunite some moral and ethical grounding here in America. Bring the power back to the people,” said City College alumnus Jonathan Hubbard.

Others had more than one reason to celebrate today.

“I just think it’s a blessing to be born on his birthday,” said Leangela Eason, who studies broadcasting at City College. “Martin Luther King is so important to me, and I’m just here to honor his legacy and keep the walk going.”

Organized by nonprofit MLK365, the march capped at the Convention Center. Once inside, participants encountered a multitude of exhibits and outreach programs, such as a historic RT bus parked in the corner for people to climb aboard. Sponsors for the event held tables alongside an indoor soccer game, arts and crafts, a free book giveaway, and a stage with a lineup of performers and public speakers.

T-shirts for sale carried the message “Walk with me”—the same message worn by the event coordinators.

“Getting people from different backgrounds to reach out to people and invite someone to walk with them so that they will understand, and through understanding comes value. That’s the message. That’s Dr. King’s message,” said Sam Starks, executive director of MLK365.

Black Lives Matter held a concurrent march on the Capitol, believing the March for the Dream to be out of step with Dr. King’s message. It issued a statement that institutions sponsor these events so they can work on their image rather than the system. The movement split off at the Convention Center and marched back on the Capitol.

“Same song, different dance,” Starks said of the Black Lives Matter march, while he directed participants into the Convention Center.

Sponsors with booths included some corporations such as Planet Fitness and H&R Block, but mostly consisted of nonprofits such as the NAACP, local businesses such as Farm Fresh To You, city employers such as the Sacramento Police Department, and colleges such as Sacramento State University and the University of California, Davis.

Los Rios students from across the district shared a table around the corner from the Los Rios Federation of Teachers, where City College professors showed their support.

“Our union stands for a lot of what Martin Luther King stood for, which is economic rights for all workers, for diversity, and for making sure that everybody has equal opportunities,” said Belinda Lum, sociology professor and executive board member of the union.

“It’s an opportunity to bring our community together and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said fellow board member and chemistry professor William Miller.

While their backgrounds differed, many attendants shared the same message.

“Of all my favorite days, MLK day is my favorite,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg, speaking with the Express. “It’s the city coming together to march for our values.”