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Time to show up, step up

Your Turn



The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "All People's Breakfast" — a dialogue-to-action social-justice convening held annually at Colorado College — will take place at 8 a.m. on King Monday. And, those who represent organizations like the Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission and the NAACP believe this is the year when we might all truly step up.

This is the year when our community might show that the MLK legacy matters to us — with our attendance numbers, with our increased participation, with our enlarged voices for justice ... King style. We know it's already been a tough season for Colorado Springs.

This community didn't even make it out of the first week of 2015 before Gene Southerland's building — a sacred community space that for years has housed Mr. G's Hair Design Studios and the NAACP Colorado Springs Branch — was targeted for attack. According to the police, on Jan. 6 a White man arrived at the building carrying a package. But when he returned to his truck, he was carrying nothing. In short order, an almost deafening explosion rocked the quiet, friendly little area known as the Hillside neighborhood, the barber shop, the NAACP office, and all of us.

Thankfully, no one was physically injured, and there was no real property damage. We are all now looking to the police and FBI to investigate effectively and tell us who did this — and why. This never should have happened. Someone must be held accountable.

Of course, there's already been plenty in the news that should righteously move us to greater action on King's principles of non-violent, yet aggressive, resistance to injustice. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones ... there have been too many names on the long list of Black men and women who've had their lives taken and no one held accountable.

When nearly 100 NAACP members and volunteers gathered downtown on a Saturday afternoon in December to call for an end to gun violence, racial profiling and police brutality, many of those we met were all in for justice and equality. Some stopped their shopping and ice skating to join a "die-in" on the City Hall steps. Some accepted the NAACP information, some refused it. A few lifted a vile middle finger at our volunteers.

The Pikes Peak region is a beautiful place. That's one reason General William Jackson Palmer built a city here. He had fought with the Union Army in the early 1860s to free slaves, and his freedom mindset set the tone for our culture. Palmer had brought Black employees with him and donated resources that helped build a strong Black community.

But something else happened here.

Historian John Stokes Holley, who authored The Invisible People of the Pikes Peak Region: An Afro-American Chronicle wrote that General Palmer's brave new Western world began to attract settlers from the South who didn't share Palmer's views. Holley wrote: "Black people moving to Colorado Springs, expecting complete equality of opportunity, did not find it."

Some would say too many still don't — which would be a clear reason for us to dialogue on historic recollections like the film Selma, and attend MLK events on the coming calendar (see "Special Events" in Listings). Those events are sponsored by faith houses like New Jerusalem Baptist Church, local equality organizations like Urbanites Leading the Pikes Peak Region and others.

In a time when too many deny the very existence of inequality and injustice, your participation sends a message. When too many so perversely pretend to be King disciples, while corrupting and co-opting his ideals, your participation sends a message.

When students are taught about the "I Have a Dream Speech" but not about King's "Poor People's Campaign," your presence says that we still need a day — even a season — set aside annually. In times like these, we must continue to explore, be reminded of, and take action on all that Dr. King actually represented, and his vision for a fully just world.

Rosemary Lytle, president of the NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Conference, is also immediate past president of the Colorado Springs Branch NAACP.

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