Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer applauds after Dr. William G. Anderson speaks during a song during the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March and celebration at the Southfield Pavilion in Southfield on Monday. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)
Numerous observances Monday across Michigan for Martin Luther King Jr. Day included appearances by the two likely candidates in this fall’s gubernatorial campaign.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and his probable Democratic challenger, former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, spoke at events in Lansing and Southfield, respectively, honoring the late civil rights leader.
Attending the Greater Lansing Martin Luther King Day 29th Annual Luncheon, the governor called for more civility in politics and promoted his efforts to encourage immigrants to settle in Michigan and expand access to preschool for low-income 4-year-olds.
King, who was slain April 4, 1968, would have turned 85 on Jan. 15.
“Great progress has been made, but we still have work to do,” Snyder said at the Lansing Center.
Schauer attended several events around Metro Detroit, including an observance at the Southfield Civic Center.
“Dr. King made a mark on my life when I was college student and I marched in the 20th anniversary Martin Luther King Freedom March,” said Schauer, referring to the event commemorating the civil rights leader’s famous 1963 march on Washington, D.C., and the delivery of his “I Have A Dream” speech.
“Dr. King’s vision of justice, equality, opportunity has guided me throughout my career before and beyond politics.”
Southfield was the first Michigan city to hold an MLK peace march. Civil rights leader William Anderson delivered the Southfield event’s keynote speech. Anderson was a founder of the Albany Movement, a desegregation coalition in Albany, Ga. King became involved with the group in 1961.
“This many years later, if (King) were still here today, I think he would say: ‘Don’t stop dreaming. Yes, the dreamer was killed, but keep the dream alive,’” Anderson said. “I’m going to say what Martin said down in Mississippi. He got to the mountaintop, he looked over and he had seen the promised land and said: ‘I might not get there with you, but one day, we as a people — black, white and Hispanics together — will come to the realization that we deserve equal opportunity, equal rights, equal access … because we are citizens of the world.’”
At the Lansing commemoration, speakers included Mayor Virg Bernero. Bernero said he calls this time of the year “Martin Luther King Day season” because of the numerous events celebrating King’s legacy, followed by Black History Month in February.
“Martin Luther King season is our opportunity to look ourselves in the mirror and ask whether we’ve done enough for equality and justice,” Bernero said.
At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, singer and activist Harry Belafonte marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a sober assessment of the state of the nation and its evolution since King’s slaying 45 years ago.
“I’m not too sure where America is at this moment,” he said at the 28th annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. “We seem to have lost our moral compass, if we ever had one.”
The Associated Press contributed.