by Carissa Wolf
Some say they’re living the dream. For others, a struggle stands between civil rights and their reality. And for many, the hope of universal freedom remains the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We are an imperfect people and there is still work to do,” said Boisean Tony Hodges. “The legacy of Martin Luther King is about progress and moving forward.”
A who’s who of Idaho civil-rights activists, grassroots organizers and progressive movers and shakers flanked the Statehouse steps and crowed into the Capitol Rotunda to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with songs, praise and calls for service.
Inside, dignitaries celebrated the fulfillment of dreams while a crowd gathered outside and spoke of dreams they still carry. The biting cold and grassroots organizations painted a contrast to the orchestrated indoor Statehouse celebration, but the message and hope of the celebrants remained the same: We have come so far but we still have a long way to go.
“I am the product of Dr. King’s legacy,” said former Mountain Home Mayor Joe B. McNeal. “I think Dr. King would be a little put back that he has a national holiday. He was such a humble man. But he would still remind us that we’ve come a long way but we have a long way to go.”
Outside, Native Americans reminded MLK Day celebrants that they are our neighbors, that they struggle and that they still carry their dreams. Some held signs reading “Idle No More,” while Shoshone-Paiute tribe members spoke of the ill health plaguing their people and the environmental exploitation of native lands.
“We are in your classrooms. We are professionals. We are your doctors, your lawyers and we play PlayStations,” community organizer Tai Simpson said. “There are people in this Statehouse that don’t listen to our issues and that’s why we’re here.”
Hodges said that when dreams come true, the dreamers and their neighbors have reasons to celebrate.
“I am actually living the dream," he said. "That dream has been distributed among many people.”
The Chicago transplant said life looks very different thanks to King.
Hodges has called Idaho home for 36 years but says that without those who fought for civil rights, he may have never had the opportunity to choose Boise as a home, find good-paying work with the federal government, and retire young with a pension.
“It has a domino effect,” Hodges said of civil rights. “I get to be a neighbor in Idaho and part of that black family on the block.”
But Hodges and other celebrants say that not every neighbor knows a life of civil rights.
“Until everyone is satisfied, no one can be satisfied,” Hodges said.