Martin Luther King Day: Events in Phoenix area commemorate late civil rights leader

Jan. 16, 2023 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and in the Phoenix area, several events have been scheduled.

The series of events honoring the late civil rights leader began with a candlelight vigil at the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Downtown Phoenix, on the 30th anniversary of the holiday's establishment.

Songs of joy and praise were present at the candlelight church service, which began 35 years ago.

"It started out before Arizona even established the holiday," said Pastor Aubrey Barnwell.

Pastor Barnwell says the legacy of the event continues to this day.

"Once the holiday was established, they changed it over to a celebration and decided that they would give the funds to a scholarship," said Pastor Barnwell.

Throughout the years, the event gave over $400,000, and inspired the next generation of youth.

Pastor Barnwall says it is just as important to host this celebration today as it was over 30 years ago, especially with the state's past surrounding the day.

"We’re the only state that actually had to vote it in as a holiday, and so in doing that, the people came together and said we want this, and so we came together and decided we need to keep celebrating and keep it before us, keeping the legacy and life of Martin Luther King Jr. living," said Pastor Barnwell.

In Arizona, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was approved as a holiday by voters in 1992, following a years-long controversy with the holiday that also cost the state its hosting rights for the Super Bowl in 1993.

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Pastor Barnwell is also looking to what needs to be done in the future.

"There’s still some issues that we need to address, and make sure that we keep them before the people, and before our legislatures, and that everyone knows that we’re still fighting for equality," said Pastor Barnwell.

March took place on Monday

On Jan. 16, a number of events in the Phoenix area took place to commemorate King, including a march that began at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.

The rain did not stop hundreds of people from joining in on the parade, which ended at Margaret T. Hance Park. Those who took part in the parade say it is important to keep Dr. King's memory alive.

"It's important for unity, for Justice, for us coming together to March," said one march participant.

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