Put action to Dr. King’s words, MLK March leader says

The best way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday Monday was to walk with people who are different, said Sacramento March for the Dream organizer Sam Starks.

Hundreds of those who marched the five miles from Sacramento City College to the Sacramento Convention Center did just that. Latinos walked with Vietnamese, American Indians marched alongside Sikhs from India and African Americans walked with everybody.

“It’s not enough to remember Dr. King’s words, we must put them into action,” said Starks, who every year leads a march that attracts around 25,000 people. “Invite others to ‘walk with me,’ whether it’s someone of a different race, religion or generation.” At the MLK365 website, marchers could visit the “invitation tree” and list up to six people they would like to invite.

Among those who embodied this year’s theme were about a dozen local members of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, a national organization fostering better understanding between Muslim and Jewish women. “We get more by joining forces and embracing our differences than by hating others,” said Melanie Mages-Canale of B’nai Israel, who helped organize the sisterhood with Anne Kjemtrup, vice-chair of SALAM Islamic Center.

The sisters walked side-by-side holding a purple and white banner, “Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom.” One member, Jo Ann Solov, carried sign reading, “Building bridges of understanding, changing the world one Muslim and one Jewish woman at a time...”

The women have volunteered at Loaves and Fishes and Mustard Seed school for homeless kids, celebrated Jewish and Muslim holidays together and plan to go to the Women’s March next Saturday.

They meet monthly for a vegetarian pot luck, where they trade recipes, family stories and ways to make Sacramento better. “We eat, we talk,” said Rabbi Mona Alfi of B’nai Israel. “The more we engage on points of conflict, the better it is for society as a whole.

Kjemtrup said the Sisterhood “doesn’t take away our ability to hold different viewpoints, while valuing each other as humans. It counters prevailing stereotypes that Jewish and Muslims inherently cannot get along. We find strength and support in our similarities, since both our religions have been under attack in these recent times.”

Durriya Syed, another Muslim American activist, said each meeting overflows with joyful conversations. “We are all about educating people and giving back ... We understand very clearly that this is not the time to be divisive.”

About 700 people led by Black Lives Matter attended the #ReclaimMLK March from the Safeway on Alhambra Blvd. to the Capitol. “We will not be aligned with an event tainted in capitalism or sponsored by the very law enforcement entities that are killing us in the street., but with the people!” said Black Lives Matter Sacramento on its Facebook page.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a familiar figure on the annual MLK365 march, found himself being embraced by Aryhauna Sloan, an African American fourth-grader at Pacific Elementary School who said she remembered when Steinberg helped her class get new computers. After she got the mayor to pose with her, he asked her why she was marching.

Her response? “It means respect and carrying on Dr. King’s dream,” she said. “I want to become a scientist. I like engineering, putting stuff together.”

“It’s really important that you’re marching,” Steinberg said. “As you grow up, always think about others.”

Steinberg called the city’s MLK march his favorite day of the year.

“This is the essence of Sacramento, and it’s more relevant than ever,” he said. “People need to feel a sense of community, that not all is lost. It reminds us what Dr. King and other civil rights heroes went through, and they never gave up, never gave in. That’s what we need to do. There’s only once choice, and that is to fight for the best of our values and against bigotry.”

Stephen Magagnini: 916-321-1072, @SteveMagagnini