Video: MLK / Idaho Human Rights Day Draws Hundreds to Two Statehouse Celebrations


  • Farzan Faramarzi

The Idaho Statehouse played host to not one, but two Martin Luther King Jr. / Idaho Human Rights Day celebrations Jan. 19.

The first event began mid-morning with Boise State University students and community members marching north on Capitol Boulevard to the Idaho Statehouse, where they gathered on the Capitol steps at 11:30 a.m. to celebrate Dr. King's legacy, and show how the standards he set for human rights across the United States were very much alive today.

Jasmine Herrick, community organizer and Boise State student, told the crowd that civil rights change faces new roadblocks in the 21st century, but stressed that creating change on a community level is no less important in 2015 than it was in the 1950s and '60s. 

Jasmine Herrick speaking on the Capitol steps. - FARZAN FARAMARZI
  • Farzan Faramarzi
  • Jasmine Herrick speaking on the Capitol steps.

"If [Martin Luther King, Jr.] were alive now, his act would be considered an act of domestic terrorism because it blocked traffic," she told the crowd of mostly students.

For her, however, silence on the issue of establishing equal protections for all under the law only encourages those who would marginalize and abridge the rights of others.

"When we are silent, we send the message that we can be brutalized with no consequence," she said. 

Much has changed in the half century since the civil rights movement began to make headway in the United States: Though the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1965, speakers said there remains much work to be done. Associated Students of Boise State University President Brian Vlok told the crowd that "social justice isn't extinct, and that he looks forward to the challenges and victories the movement faces in the future.

  • Farzan Faramarzi

"What will we do in the next 50 years?" he asked the crowd.

A few speakers who took to the podium said that one of the current horizons of the civil rights movement in Idaho is the Add the Words campaign, which seeks to add "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the state's 1960s-era human rights law. 

"This year there will be a hearing for [a bill currently in committee in the Idaho legislature to add the words], and you have a role," said Francisco Salinas, Boise State Director of Diversity and Inclusion, calling on the community to write letters to members of the legislature encouraging them to support the passage of the bill. 

Meanwhile, inside the Statehouse was a more formal commemoration - the noontime Martin Luther King Jr. / Human Rights Day celebration. There, emcee and Idaho Sen. Cherie Buckner Webb introduced several speakers, including Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, who filled in for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter during the ceremony, and read a gubernatorial proclamation of MLK Human Rights Day.

Rabbi Dan Fink delivered the keynote address. - FARZAN FARAMARZI
  • Farzan Faramarzi
  • Rabbi Dan Fink delivered the keynote address.

Following a performance by the Common Ground Community Chorus, Rabbi Dan Fink delivered the keynote address, "The Pursuit of Justice Begins with Truth."

"Thanks to civil rights laws passed in the last 50 years, you live in a more just nation," he told hundreds who watched him from three floors of the Capitol Building. 

Fink said, however, that the fight for equal rights for all is far from won, echoing Salinas' call for the Idaho State Legislature to "add the words." He said that there are three ways that the truth—and consequently justice—is impeded when it comes to providing justice for Idaho's LGBT citizens: "averting our gaze" and not seeing that there's a problem; failing to recognize the injustices LGBT people face in Idaho; and rationalizing our collective failure to provide legal protections. 

"The laws provide just recourse unless you are lesbian, transsexual or gay," he said. "Justice is a rising tide."