The words of “We Shall Overcome” will ring loud in Hermiston as members of the Hermiston Cultural Awareness Coalition hosts the annual Martin Luther King March.

“It’s important to have an awareness about Martin Luther King’s legacy and the work he began many years ago,” said John Carbage, president of the coalition.

In its 20th year, the Hermiston event is Monday, Jan. 20 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — beginning at 11 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 191 E. Gladys Ave., Hermiston. The group will take a short walk to Main Street and will end in front of Hermiston City Hall where city officials will greet the crowd.

It’s important to be visible in the community, Carbage said, and having city officials involved gives the event legitimacy. In addition, he stresses that the gathering isn’t confrontational.

“The walk we do is a peace walk,” Carbage said. ”We also do a prayer. We pray for the leaders.”

After the walk, the group will meet inside the Methodist church. The program will include a time of singing, prayer and speakers. The special guest speaker is Roy Barron, a Hermiston city councilman and a member of Raices, a grassroots organization in Hermiston that advocates on behalf of the Latino community.

Robert Davis, treasurer of the Hermiston Cultural Awareness Coalition, is hopeful more of the younger generation will come out for the event. He said to carry on King’s legacy, the youth population needs to step up into leadership roles.

Carbage is pleased with the growth of peace walk and participation in the program. However, he said while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done.

“Civil rights are still being violated, especially with the building of the wall and some of the immigration platforms,” he said.

A social activist and civil rights leader, King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Also a pastor and author, he was assassinated in 1968 on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

King’s birthday was approved as a federal holiday in 1983 — by 2000, all 50 states identified it as a state government holiday. The holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of January.

Carbage invites people to attend the Hermiston Cultural Awareness Coalition on the second Saturday of each month at 2 p.m. at Starbuck’s, 1235 N. First St., Hermiston. For more information, call 541-701-7073.

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