Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reclaiming the Dream: MLK Day in Northwest Arkansas by Tony E. Boyd

It was a nice, sunny morning in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Monday January 19, 2015. It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the people of Fayetteville were gathering to honor him through the Annual MLK march, and other activities scheduled for the day.

It was being staged in the Walton Arts Center parking lot. This year, I chose to document the march for my own edification, to spur my creativity, and to create a record. A record to say, "We were here. We remember. We made a statement. We stood for something." I watched as the various individuals, families, groups milled around and eventually became one . . . big  . . . burgeoning . . .mass.

 I wandered through the mass, watching as friends spotting each other in the crowd, gathered with hugs and shouts of delight, kids running in and out between adults, and old heads laughing and talking together. 

The mass included a wide variety of races, creeds and ethnicities. There was a lot of mingling between groups, but there were also some very distinct separations. At first, I admit, I was a little concerned about it. However, I realized I had to take into account the social psychology theory of public gatherings. We as human beings are more comfortable with the familiar. So we tend to gravitate toward people who are more like us. And that’s what I think happened with the groupings. 

The entire crowd was lively and cheerful. They all came to attention when the organizers got up to do their opening remarks and to introduce the mayor. Mayor Lioneld Jordan addressed the crowd emphasizing the beauty of cooperation and working together to make Fayetteville the best place it can be for all of its citizens. After the speech and pleasantries, it was time to head out on the march. With police escort leading the way, the crowd ambled forward. 

I walked along beside the crowd, snapping shot after shot. After a few shots of the marchers coming out of the Walton Arts Center parking lot, I began to get a better since of the size of the overall group. I am glad to say the size was larger than I anticipated. It helped that the weather was good. There were old and young, men and women, black and white, Asian and Hispanic, Marshallese and others, bicycles and baby carriages, banner carriers and protest signs. 

An ode to recent events, there was a Black Lives Matters sign. One fervent marcher/protester held aloft a "CIA killed MLK" sign. He also had a book with him and he said held the proof. The crowd walked along with the lively cadence, songs and chants from the lead vehicles.

 As we rounded the last turn going to the Arkansas Union, I watched as the lifted spirits made their way to their destination. I could see the smiles gleaming from a sense of accomplishment and from being a part of something significant and bigger than themselves.

Dr. King, the Dream continues . . .!

 Story by Tony Boyd