About 200 people attended the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration held Monday at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. The event was organized by Juneau’s Black Awareness Association.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott gave the opening speech. He spoke about his mother’s experience with discrimination.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott said his mother, Emma – a Tlingit woman – would cry whenever she had to leave Yakutat to go to Juneau.
“And she was crying for her brothers and sisters because to come to this place was to come to a place in which she was not welcome and a place in which she was not accorded respect, the place in which her innate and wonderful dignity was not recognized,” Mallott said.
Mallott’s mother was around when Elizabeth Peratrovich testified for Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945. Peratrovich told the Territorial Senate it was time to give Alaska Natives basic human and civil rights.
Mallott said he grew up during a time of conscious healing.
“A time in which every Alaskan had to look into their hearts and soul and examine their place in this wonderful land and make personal decisions about the kind of life that they would lead to either reject or embrace their brothers and sisters around them,” Mallott said.
Mallott has seen change in his lifetime, and he said his position as Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor is proof.
“And so I hope to wear this office very lightly because, for all of us, every day that we live is just another step in a life, a life that follows the arc of history and time, that the Rev. Martin Luther King stated so visually powerfully, the arc of history, the arc of time that hopefully ‘bends toward justice,'” he said.
For Mallott, the color of unity is the color of his mother’s eyes.
Listen to other sounds of the celebration, including Salissa Thole singing, actor Michael Flood performing King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon and Sherry Patterson, president of Juneau’s Black Awareness Association.