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Thousands march to honor MLK; some push presidential candidates

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tucson resident Linda Walker shows her support for Martin Luther King Jr. while carrying a picture of King during the MLK march yesterday morning. More than 2,000 people attended.
By Walter E. Staton
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
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"Only half a mile left!" yelled a man before he stuck a recorder in each nostril and a Dixie whistle in his mouth and started playing a tune.

Clay Adams, a local performer known as Black Man Clay, was one of more than 2,000 people marching in remembrance of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. yesterday.

"I'm here for Dr. King," Adams said. "He was a prince of peace."

Adams, along with John Aza on drums and Paul Stephen on tambourine, entertained the marchers as they walked from the UA Mall to Reid Park.

Aza, a mechanical engineering senior, briefly addressed the crowd on the Mall before the march began. A refugee from Sudan, Aza said MLK Day is an important time to remember the struggle for civil rights in the United States.

Dr. King's name has been pimped.

- Rev. T. Richard Smith


The march was attended by a wide variety of people and organizations, from black fraternities and sororities to elementary school children.

There were also a large number of people carrying signs and wearing T-shirts for their favorite democratic presidential candidates, causing some to feel the event was over-politicized.

Booths for retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and the Republican Party were set up around the stage at Reid Park, where the march ended.

Natasha Carr, an elementary education senior from Delta Sigma Theta, said she was disturbed by all the political propaganda.

"I feel like they just want to get votes," said Carr, who has been coming to the MLK march since she was very young. Carr said she thought this year's turnout was larger than normal because it is an election year.

Ross Lampert, a UA alumnus, attended the march to campaign for Democratic presidential primary candidate Kucinich.

Lampert talked about the significance of Dr. King's life, calling him an advocate for peace.

"Toward the end of his life, Dr. King expanded beyond racial issues and talked about underlying class problems," Lampert said.

Monica Warren, a journalism junior, said this was the first time she has attended the MLK march. Warren also noticed the large presence of political campaigners.

"It should be more about love than politics," Warren said.

Clarence Boykin from the Tucson's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People addressed the crowd and emphasized the importance of voting. Voting, Boykin said, "is the single most important thing we will do this year."

Members from Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta, both black greek organizations, led the march.

"It's not only about African-Americans, it's about civil rights," said Nina Jackson, a master's student in women's studies and a member of Zeta Phi Beta.

About 20 students and teachers from Jefferson Park Elementary School attended the march. Second-graders Jennifer Martin and Jason McMenamin said they spent last week running laps in order to get in shape for the nearly three-mile-long route.

Rev. T. Richard Smith was master of ceremonies for the festival.

Offstage, Smith said there is little leadership in Arizona for black causes. "We need representation, people with backbone," Smith said.

He was also concerned about how the holiday dedicated to King has been distorted. "A legacy can be abused," he said, adding, "Dr. King's name has been pimped."

The Songhai Drummers kicked off the festivities with traditional African drumming. Tariq Rasool, the leader of the group, said he thought of MLK Day as a time to celebrate the freedom for all people.

"We all come over on different ships, but we are all on the same boat," said Rasool.

Correction: This story "Thousands march to honor MLK; some push presidential candidates" incorrectly stated that 2,000 people marched to Reid Park. A little under 1,000 people marched to Reid Park. More than 2,000 people joined in the celebration after the march at Reid Park.

The Wildcat regrets the error.

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