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PEP Feb 2004
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Public Employee Press

DC 37 remembers Martin Luther King Jr.

   
 

CANDLELIGHT illuminates faces of members participating Jan. 8 in Political Action Committee’s annual commemoration of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who would have been 75 this year.

 

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS

In the soft glow of a candlelit memorial, the flames of freedom were re-ignited as more than 250 DC 37 members gathered Jan. 8 to commemorate the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

“Dr. King died fighting for dignity for black sanitation workers and we cannot take his sacrifice for granted,” said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts. “He gave us the power to speak out when others remained silent.”

The event was sponsored by the DC 37 Political Action Committee to celebrate the life of Dr. King, who would have turned 75 on Jan. 15, had he lived. Dr. King was assassinated April 4, 1968 while in Memphis to support a sanitation strike led by DC 37’s national union, AFSCME. His nonviolent battle for justice brought world attention to the plight of Blacks and the poor. The Memphis garbage workers were bargaining for basic union representation and long-overdue raises, which they eventually won along with equal treatment and dignity on the job.

“Dr. King forced America to look at itself honestly,” said guest speaker Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “His words of brilliance overcame ignorance.”

Mr. Markowitz compared the challenges overcome by the civil rights movement to those working families face today: Economic inequality, the threat of privatization and the Patriot Act, which cuts into basic civil liberties, threaten to eliminate the freedoms Dr. King fought for, Mr. Markowitz said.

John Rainbow, a member of Local 1549, led the crowd in singing “We Shall Overcome,” the spiritual that galvanized the movement. DC 37 members from 56 locals, their children and the presidents of Locals 372, 420, 957, 1070, 1113, 1320, 1407, 1549, 1655, and 2021 attended the union’s traditional candlelight vigil.

Dr. King forced America to uphold the ideals and promises of the Constitution. Ms. Roberts said, “The King legacy is an unforgettable part of our reality.”

 

 
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