Almost 200 marchers took to the streets of Cheyenne and Casper on Monday to honor the legacy and message of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Participants in Cheyenne’s march walked from the city’s railroad depot to the Wyoming Supreme Court building, where they sang, prayed and spoke. In Casper, people gathered at the First United Methodist Church to hear share messages of hope after walking through downtown Casper.
By The Wyoming Tribune Eagle
The message of Monday’s march to honor the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of resilience, conviction and hope.
More than 100 people gathered to march from the Cheyenne Depot Plaza to the Wyoming Supreme Court, where people sang, prayed, spoke and came together to honor the legacy of one of the most prominent voices of the civil rights movement.
Keynote speaker and Cheyenne native Michael Thomas recounted much of that history – from slavery to emancipation, Jim Crow to Brown vs. Board of Education.
He talked about the fight for voting rights and the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
But, Thomas said, more work needs to be done. More than a dozen states have recently passed restrictions on voting by requiring photo IDs, moving polling locations or restricting polling times.
Black men are incarcerated at much higher rates than other populations.
But there is hope, he said.
“Dr. King’s work, his legacy, his dream, is still alive today. For if it was not, I might not be standing before you today,” Thomas said.
Thomas spoke about his upbringing in Cheyenne, his struggles with dyslexia, his faith in God, and the mentorship and support of people in his life.
Thomas said he had always wanted to become an FBI agent, so in 1992 he joined the U.S. Army, where he cultivated his leadership skills.
Eventually, he changed that dream, wanting to be part of the U.S. Marshals Service. But they were on a hiring freeze, so he moved back to Cheyenne and worked in probation and parole at the Wyoming Department of Corrections.
In 2007, he got the opportunity to join the U.S. Marshals, and reported to the academy for training.
Today, Thomas is a chief deputy U.S. Marshal.
He said his success and the success of so many others was the result of the type of progress exemplified by the life and struggle of King.
“Let us unite against all inequalities and injustices. We must stand as one. Let us not forget those that have gone before us, and let us not permit their lives and legacies to be in vain,” he said. “Keep marching for justice, keep marching for peace and keep marching for truth.”
By the Casper Star-Tribune
After an hour of climbing, Mark Jenkins said he reached the summit of Mount Sinai, a mountain in Egypt that’s considered a holy site by the Abrahamic religions.
Pilgrims of many faiths sat peacefully beside one another, watching the sunrise, he recalled.
“There were probably 100 people there and everyone gave one another the space and the dignity to pray to their own god,” he said. “Fifty-five years ago, Martin Luther King said that someday black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands. We are fractured by divisive politics and extremists agendas, but we can rise above it and we can coexist.”
Jenkins — a graduate of the University of Wyoming who now travels the world writing for National Geographic — was speaking Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, at First United Methodist Church in Casper as part of Wyoming’s Equality Day Celebration.
The annual event was organized by Serve Wyoming, an organization that promotes collaborative efforts among private, nonprofit and governmental organizations that advance community service. A handful of other groups, including the Wyoming Food For Thought Project and the NAACP’s Casper branch, also helped.
Jenkins told the crowd that the media often focuses on conflicts and violence. But after his extensive travels, the writer said he’s seen too much good in the world to give up hope.
“Humans can live in harmony,” he said.
Casper Mayor Charlie Powell also spoke at the event and acknowledged that society has a long way to go before equality is achieved. But like Jenkins, he urged the crowd not to be discouraged.
“We are not helpless,” he said. “I think we can, in our little community here, serve as an example of how to do things the right way.”
Prior to the service at the church, a march for equality was held in downtown Casper. About 80 bundled-up residents, including toddlers riding in strollers and seniors who leaned on their canes, walked along Midwest Avenue and East Second Street.
Some carried signs emblazoned with empowering messages or quotes from King.
“Only love drives out hate,” read one poster board. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” read another.