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Hundreds march in honor of MLK



For the past 16 years, University of Oregon political science professor Jane Cramer hasn’t gone skiing, taken a road trip or relaxed in bed all morning on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Instead, she’s marched with the Eugene-Springfield NAACP and her family in celebration of Dr. King and his contributions to civil rights.

On Jan 16., the Eugene-Springfield NAACP held it’s 30th MLK Community March in which about 500 members of the public walked a mile and a half on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Students and prominent local figures, including UO President Michael Schill and U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio, spoke at the event about equality, unity and the sacrifices of MLK.

The celebration comprised of people of all ages, races and backgrounds. Some chatted amongst each other. Some chanted about the importance of justice. Some walked quietly trying to keep warm.

Cramer held her dog in hand as she walked with her kids and husband by her side.

As someone whose family grew up in the South, an area historically known for segregation and racism, Cramer said she’s learned from an early age to defy those sentiments and value civil rights.

She said the march drew one of the largest crowds she’s seen and hopes that by attending, people can better acknowledge the discriminatory history of the U.S.

“When young people get out and march … they come to think about the importance of it,” Cramer said, “and I think when you bring society together to stand for something, they act on it in their daily lives much more.”

President of the Eugene-Springfield NAACP Youth Council, 18-year-old Miles Pendleton, has been marching on MLK Day since he was 11.

“I celebrate [Martin Luther King Jr.’s] willingness to put his life on the line for the benefit of others,” he said. “Just his ability to see what was right.”

Pendleton said he hopes people with all viewpoints understand that the march is for everyone and that people can use their emotions to make positive change.

President of the Eugene and Springfield NAACP, Eric Richardson, recognized that after a divisive U.S. presidential election, people might feel that their community is shaken. He said the march is a way for them to reaffirm their belief in that community.

“I just want people to come out and celebrate our country and celebrate the idea of moving ahead together as a beloved community — a community that looks at one another as brothers and sisters,” Richardson said.

Speakers at the event recognized that sense of community and progress when they presented Kevin Summerfield and Phil Carrasco a City of Eugene Human Rights Award for their contributions to social justice.

Oregon State Senator James Manning, an event speaker, acknowledged that now is a crucial time for human rights contributions and unity.

“We have an unfulfilled vision,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to work on it, but there’s hope.”

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Anna Lieberman

Anna Lieberman