Thousands of locals descended onto the revered Martin Luther King Jr. Southeast of Washington, DC Avenue. — the route for the city’s annual march and peace walk, held in remembrance of the late civil rights leader.
The march, which marks the event’s first return to prominence since the COVID-19 epidemic began in 2020, attracted more than 120 groups to register to take part.
According to co-chair of the MLK Holiday DC Committee Denise Rolark Barnes, “just don’t give up the battle. And that’s what it means for me today.”
Barnes explained the importance of Monday’s gathering by saying, “We have to continue to support each other, to strengthen ourselves in the greatest manner that we can.”
The commercialization of the national holiday, which may be seen by some as more of a day off from work and school than a chance to contemplate and practice action, was another concern raised by organizers.
Executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council Philip Pannell remarked, “The holiday, as they say, is not a day off — it’s a day on.”
Everybody can serve, according to Dr. King, so if anybody can contribute to improving the neighborhood, Pannell said, “we’re keeping the spirit of Dr. King alive.”
The R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center served as the starting point for the peace walk and parade, which attracted thousands of people and hundreds of local organizations. Groups prepared for a march packed with music that would culminate at Anacostia Park in southeast Washington.
Bands and choreographed dance troupes performed throughout the procession and walk, while local nonprofits put up booths where participants could get free food, coffee, and personal care items.
At the National Action Network’s annual brunch honoring King, President Joe Biden observed the event with Rev. Al Sharpton.
In a keynote speech, Biden praised the initiatives his administration has done, in his words, to better the lives of Black and Latino Americans.
But we have a lot of unfinished business, he said. There is still a lot of unfinished business, and because of the incoming Congress, we must continue to advance and preserve our achievements.
In addition to preaching on Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where King had previously given a sermon, Vice President Biden underscored financial support for historically Black institutions and universities and Black-owned small businesses.
The United States is at an “inflection moment” in King’s vision of racial equality, he told the gathering, which included congressional members and leaders in the civil rights movement.
After mentioning his historic nomination of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the high court, Biden drew thunderous ovation. He said that she was the smartest of the group.
Biden said he didn’t want to hear anything about his college student loan forgiveness program, which is being contested in court, from “the opposite side” of what he termed unfulfilled promises. He blasted Republicans for what he described as their attempts to block debt forgiveness, which would mostly assist Black students. He pointed out that 70% of them get Pell funds, which would be fully eliminated if his scheme is put into effect.
The direction is clear: We must go ahead together, so let’s follow Dr. King’s example and the biblical command to “never get weary in doing what is right,” Biden added.
At George Washington University, Vice President Kamala Harris celebrated the occasion by taking part in a leadership and service activity with faculty, employees, and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
When we believe in what is possible, Harris added, we can “work toward the principles upon which our country was built, which we still have yet to realize but we grow closer each day.”
Martin Luther King III, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the ambassador to the United Nations, and others gathered for a wreath-laying ceremony at King’s monument on the National Mall.