An estimated 300 people marched in support of inclusive communities and national unity in the Jan. 20 Martin Luther King Jr. Day March and Rally.
The march, sponsored by the NAACP, began at the Science Factory behind Autzen Stadium and ended in downtown Eugene at the Shedd Institute. The nonprofit Shedd Institute covered the fee to rent out the hall for the post-march event.
The march, Standing United, was designed to promote understanding and collaboration across cultural, racial and economic lines, according to the NAACP.
“We must build on the heritage (King) left us with,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.
Numerous topics were discussed, including equality for same-sex couples, voting rights, entitlements for the poor and corporate personhood.
“Equity, inclusion and diversity must penetrate everything we do,” University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson said. “It requires sustained effort, but it will make our community a better place.”
Many local leaders speaking at the event emphasized the need for more equality.
“Many of our children are in poverty. Too many families (are) homeless and without the most common of resources, and still we cut the very social service network that is there to protect them,” Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy said at the event.
“I believe in treating others as one would hope to be treated, and that includes allowing gay and lesbian couples to have the freedom to marry,” Oregon United for Marriage volunteer Colin Crader said in a speech.
Community leaders also spoke on the adversity they, along with their supporters, will all face in their attempt to achieve policy goals. Leaders cited the political effort to potentially stifle voting rights across the country.
“There is a war being waged against the progress made by the Civil Rights Act,” local NAACP chapter President Eric Richardson said in his speech.
All of the speakers stressed the need to start a conversation and that they view themselves as being on the winning side of progress.
After the main speeches there were gospel choir performances, poetry and speeches that the crowd enjoyed. Community partners for this year’s march included the City of Eugene, Lane Community College, the University of Oregon and others.
“When movements stand together united, real change can happen,” Community Alliance of Lane County community organizer Michael Carrigan said.