MLK Day in Juneau serves as a remembrance & reminder

Salissa Thole sang “America the Beautiful” as the USCG Distict Seventeen Color Guard posted the colors. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Nearly 150 people attended the community celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day sponsored by the Black Awareness Association of Juneau. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Black Awareness Association President Sherry Patterson sings “The Lord’s Prayer” at the beginning of the MLK Community Celebration. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand President Freda Westman and Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand President Bill Martin were two of several speakers at the MLK Day community celebration at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

High school student Nathel Sims says Martin Luther King, Jr. is the reason she’s able to go to school with integrated classrooms. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Salissa Thole, Jocelyn Miles, Pastor Phil Campbell, Sherry Patterson, Kim Kiefer, and others link arms. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The crowd joined hands as they sang “We Shall Overcome.” (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Juneau residents joined several speakers and singers as they paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at St. Paul’s Catholic Church on Monday, his day of honor. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Nearly 150 people gathered at Monday’s community celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day held at St. Paul’s Catholic Church.

One of the event’s speakers, Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand President Freda Westman, said the fight for racial equality isn’t over:

“Racial equality is always worth fighting for. I am moved because this is something that we are still fighting for today.”

Westman says Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught non-violence, “Our greatest weapon is something that we must examine and burnish and that is our hearts and our conscience and our seeking justice.”

During her speech, Juneau high school student Nathel Sims said she is able to attend schools with integrated classrooms and get a good education because of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Because he stood up and fought for the rights of people of color, I have been able to go to schools with many other nationalities – Mexican, Italian, German, anything, you name it. We are able to attend school together.”

Sims is the recipient of a scholarship from the Black Awareness Association of Juneau, which sponsored the Martin Luther King, Jr. event.

President Sherry Patterson saids Sims and the other speakers sent home a strong message:

“We are one people, we’re a rainbow of color in this community and when we come together with events like this, it empowers us to do better.”

Immediately following Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the organization starts preparing for Black History month events, which take place in February. Black Awareness Association of Juneau was started in 1994 and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.