MLK Day 2018 Statement: Why Daily Commitment to Racial Justice Beats an Annual Show

Third Year in a Row Community Members Voice Concerns about City’s MLK Celebration

 Dear Bellingham Community Members:

We, Community to Community Development, Racial Justice Coalition, Latino Advocacy, Familias Unidas Por La Justicia, and the Red Line Salish Sea, wish to provide some perspective on our discontent with the Bellingham MLK event.

For the last two years, impacted people and grassroots groups held space for a counter event, protesting the city’s annual MLK celebration. The counter event was intended to expose the city’s misuse of Dr. King’s birthday and messaging for their own benefit. The counter event was intended to protest the city’s abuse of power in policy-making which has detrimentally impacted the poor and people of color. The city’s actions are antithetical to Dr. King’s values, and one wonders if their MLK Jr. event is even ethical.

Before and since the first day we stood outside city hall and everyday with everything that we do, we honor Dr. King’s legacy through the actions and work of grassroots movements. Dr. King fought for Black people, people of color and the poor. He fought against capitalism, U.S. militarism and racism. Dr. King did these things by taking to the streets and marching, using direct action and civil disobedience, implementing boycotts, and demanding accountability from unjust and racist institutions. He inconvenienced people when it was called for, and ultimately sacrificed himself for the movement. We continue his work and the work of so many other social justice warriors of our past. We stand on the shoulders of our social movement leaders, we honor their memory and we will not stand by when their efforts are co-opted by the systems of power they worked to dismantle.

This past year, people of color in Whatcom County have faced many corrupt policies and attacks from local government, elected state officials and law enforcement that seem to take their lead from the trump administration. For example, law enforcement officials have bullied social movement leaders, attempting to criminalize their work, and corrupt officials have trampled free speech, one of the highest constitutional rights of our democracy. There have been continued unchecked racial profiling by law enforcement, furthering the agenda on the war on immigrants and people of color  today. Additionally, the city voted to uphold racist landmarks and refused houseless people their basic human needs and shelter, just to name a few.

Despite all the attacks, we will continue fighting for liberation and we will persevere. Nonetheless, it takes everyone’s commitment to see the pressing issues, solutions and voices to be heard. We believe that no work can happen without impacted communities leading the work. Nothing about us without us.

Grassroots efforts are working to redefine power and decision-making. We are inviting the community to attend the People’s Movement Assembly (PMA) that exemplifies participatory democracy on Sunday, January 21st. We will collectively answer, what issues we face, what the solutions are, and what actions we are taking. The PMA will take place from 9 am-5 pm at the Bellingham High School. So join us and the movement for people.

The solutions and power are in the grassroots movements of today. We stand on the shoulders of Dr. King’s legacy on his commemorative 89th birthday. We feel his spirit and take guidance, even today, from him and many of our social justice leaders. Our historical mentors live in our spaces, vigils, demonstrations, boycotts, and actions. Our community will continue to fight for Indigenous people, people of color, immigrants, the poor, and the most marginalized in our community, as Dr. King and other leaders of the past have done for us.

In closing, we ask you to critically examine the current political environment and the city’s actions, and please consider not attending the city’s MLK event.

In Peace & Solidarity,

Community to Community

Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Latino Advocacy

Racial Justice Coalition

Red Line Salish Sea