Fort Collins marches to ‘rise up and take action’ for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Carson Lipe

Fort Collins gathered to rise up and take action against the inequalities that still persist within the United States.

Around 800 citizens from all around Fort Collins marched through Old Town at the Martin Luther King Day March and Celebration titled Rise Up, Take Action ending with a rally in the Colorado State University Lory Student Center. 

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People walk down College Avenue in Old Town. Behind President Frank is Susan Holmes carrying a sign saying Jeremy Holmes Killed, July 1, 2017 by campus police
March Leader Jaelyn Coates and CSU President Tony Frank lead the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr march down College Avenue. Directly behind President Frank is Susan Holmes, who addressed the crowd during the opening comments about her son’s death by campus police. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Participants ranged from a clusters of students from Poudre High School, to  CSU students and faculty and to military veterans looking to support the cause.

During a congregation period prior to the march, participants shared words with each other and some spoke about what they thought the cause of this year’s event was. One participant was CSU senior journalism Lena Ham. 

“People are realizing that there are still issues in the world that we ignore, and [those issues] are still relevant and affecting people all over,” Ham said. 

The event kicked-off in Old Town Square, with a speech by the march leader, Jaelyn Coates, a master’s student of student affairs in higher education at CSU. Coates dissected the meaning of a quote from civil rights activist Angela Davis.

“It was Angela Davis who said that you have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world, and you have to do it all the time,” Coates said. “And, now I ask you … what does it mean to be radical?”

Coates gave time for reflection on the true meaning of Davis’ words. Coates also spoke about how something as simple as water access is not free and equal to all across the nation, giving examples of the disparity of living conditions amongst Americans lumped into different classes.

“Perhaps right now, there are many of us who could walk into any of these stores lining the streets of Old Town… and get a drink of water,” Coates said. “But at this very moment there are also folks in Flint, Michigan and in Appalachia and in the Bayous of Louisiana who have been without [clean water] for years.”

people marching down College Avenue
Around 800 people march down College Avenue for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. March. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

A few minutes into the march, chants rang out throughout the streets and those marching encouraged each other, while echoing the mantra of the march, “Rise up!” and “Take Action!”

Before the march began Susan Holmes disrupted the crowds precession. Holmes is the mother of Jeremy Holmes, who was killed by campus police. Holmes claims CSU President Tony Frank is avoiding her.

Towards the end of the march, the leaders and organizers of the event, along with Frank, locked arms and made their way into the Lory Student Center.

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The keynote speaker was prefaced with a mix of poetry, speech and song. Frank spoke prior to the keynote. 

“Those of us who have marched together over these years and come from positions of power and privilege, if we’re honest, we know that we’ve marched in relative comfort and convenience,” Frank said. “And yet, challenge and controversy have found us … but we do not face these challenges alone. There are those in our community who have never marched in comfort and convenience. We can draw on their strength and we can learn from them.”

Frank used this quote to introduce the keynote speaker Rev. Jamie Washington.

The reverend stressed that while this MLK Day march may promote progressive thinking for the day, it is important for attendees to continue to assess their motives and to “wake up before you rise up.”

After his opening speech the reverend dismissed the crowd into small groups where discussions were carried out on topics ranging from art and social justice to human trafficking.

As the event wore on, the crowd reduced notably in size prompting comments from the reverend before the closing of the day. The reverend instructed those who were still present to look around the ballroom and take note of the reduction of the crowd. He said this is a common occurrence.

“When you rise up and take action, people will leave,” Washington said, to which the audience snapped in support. “I can’t take all the action. Do your part.”

Collegian reporter Carson Lipe can be reached at news@collegian.com.