Detroiters joined to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., at the Detroit Central United Methodist Church’s 15th annual celebration, the very same church Dr. King preached at over 50 years ago.
Hundreds of activists and leaders rallied and marched in downtown Detroit for jobs, peace and justice, continuing Dr. King’s peaceful message during the civil rights era.
Abbayomi Azikiwe, Detroit organizer of the Workers World Party said that the church wants to draw on the legacy of Dr. King. “He was a fighter. He was a struggler. He opposed war. He opposed racism and he wanted an end to poverty here in the United States.”
Civil rights activist, leader and keynote speaker for the rally Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr., who worked with Dr. King on the Poor People’s Campaign, described Detroit as being on the frontline of the ongoing nonviolent civil rights movement– which he plays an important role in.
“Many times we thought it was over, but we came through,” said Lafayette, who recalled when an angry white mob of KKK member attacked Freedom Riders at a bus terminal in Montgomery, Alabama. Lafayette managed to escape, but many of his fellow riders were beaten unconscious.
Many speakers reminded the audience of Dr. King’s inspirational words, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
These words, Palestinian comedian and activist Amer Zahr explained, connect the struggle against injustice from Detroit to Palestine. Zahr describes a parallel between the two marginalized peoples; from Dr. King’s struggle against racial injustice as an African-American to Palestinians struggles under Israeli occupation.
“They both walk the streets in persecution,” he said. “They both fought against absolute ruthless occupation. They both condemned disposition, disenfranchisement and genocide. And they both went through rejection, abandonment and suffering and eventually, vindication.”
Azikiwe also spoke about Trump’s “unjust” policies and to call attention to injustices faced by both Americans here and Palestinians abroad. “Jerusalem is Palestine,” he said, condemning Trump’s move to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
“I always encounter Zionists who try to tell me ‘MLK stood with us,’ Zahr said. “I remember MLK’s words and they apply directly to Palestine. We want all of our rights, we want them here and we want them now. That’s what he said. He said our lives begin to end the day we become silent on things that matter. That’s called Palestine. He said oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. That’s about Palestine.”
Zahr said that civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Sojourner Truth would all support a free Palestine and would have said it “loudly and proudly.”
“And I know that if Dr. King was here today, he would say free, free Palestine,” Zahr said.