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Seattle Colleges’ 51st Annual Community Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.


On Jan. 12, the Seattle Colleges commemorated its 51st Annual Community Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. at South Seattle College’s Brockey Center. The event brought students, staff, faculty, and speakers together in a tribute to the legacy of the late Martin Luther King Jr.

Emceed by DeeDee Sun, a reporter and weekend anchor at KIRO 7 TV, the event featured prayer and blessing led by Rev. Dr. Paris Lee Smith Sr., a senior pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church; a keynote address delivered by Harold Scoggins, the chief of the Seattle Fire Department; remarks from Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap, chancellor of Seattle Colleges; and songs performed by DaNell Daymon and Greater Works, a gospel choir.

This event signifies Seattle Colleges’ second MLK Jr. Social Justice Week, a series of events scheduled for January 15 -19. The lineup includes speakers Rosa Clemente, Michael Benitez Jr., Linda Sarsour, Mary Kunmi Yu Danico, David Basior, and Dr. Bettina Love.

Highlights from the Community Celebration

Jerome Price, a student from South Seattle College’s enology program, received the McKinney Scholarship Award. The scholarship, initiated in 1998, pays homage to the late Reverend Samuel McKinney, a civic leader and long-standing pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church known for his deep commitment to social justice and equality.  The annual scholarship of $1500 is awarded to a student enrolled at one of the Seattle Colleges.

Arturo Solorio Chief Harold Scoggins delivers the keynote address to the audience.

Chief Scoggins, in his keynote address, highlighted his family’s lineage, tracing it back to enslaved ancestors.  Emphasizing the importance of historical resonance, Chief Scoggins recounted moments of introspection during visits to Dr. King’s home, the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial — where the iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech echoed, and the site of the Lorraine Motel — where Dr King’s life was taken. 

Chief Scoggins also acknowledged the profound impact of those who were before him.  Among these trailblazers, he spotlighted Chief Claude Harris, Seattle’s first African-American firefighter. Despite facing challenges, Chief Harris carved a path toward diversity within the department. Chief Scoggins pointedly recognized Chief Harris’s presence and enduring legacy, symbolizing resilience and progress in the ongoing pursuit of inclusivity.

The Social Justice Award was given to the Puget Sound Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (PSAlliance LSAMP).  Funded by the National Science Foundation, its purpose is “to strengthen the preparation, representation, and success of historically underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors.” 

“What does this celebration mean to you?”

After the event concluded, several key speakers and attendees shared their insights with the Seattle Collegian, providing statements that delved into the personal meaning of the celebration by answering the question: “What does this celebration mean to you?”

Arturo Solorio Emcee DeeDee Sun closes out the event by giving her gratitude.

As a first-time attendee and emcee of the event, Sun remarked, “you hear a lot about Martin Luther King Jr., and it always goes back to ‘I Have a Dream,’ and I think that over time, that sentiment almost gets lost because you hear it so often. But being here today, you hear the real stories of real people who had to fight that fight, and it’s a reminder that it’s not just policy changes that make a difference, but you have to feel it in your heart, and everybody here feels that,” Sun said. “It is such a fresh reminder of everything that’s been done and everything that needs to happen still.”

Associate Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, D’Andre Fisher, reflected, “[this celebration] really means the life and legacy of beloved Dr. Martin Luther King, truly trying to ensure that we live out his vision and his dream as a community. What that looks like for me, is that true social justice warriors who are unsung, we sing their praises, we tell their stories,” Fisher said. “That is why we do the work that we do, to break down barriers and silos.”

Keynote speaker Chief Scoggins expressed, “This celebration means a lot for the community to come together and remember Dr. King and so many others who move this nation forward on so many fronts, specifically civil rights and social justice. With the message of equality, fairness, and inclusiveness. All those messages still resonate today; they are all still important today. If we don’t continue the conversation, we are going to lose sight of what is important, and people are important. Sometimes you can’t make people feel like they are important if you don’t value them,”  Scoggins said. “It’s hard for you to say you value someone when you don’t see them as equal or if you don’t invite them in. That is why these days are so important; we need more of these days.”

Price shared a personal connection. “Being from where Dr. King is—from the South—we went through a lot of hardships, a lot of racism.” Price emphasized that Dr. King’s vision transcended mere educational reform, including a desire for economic reform as well. He said, “That was what Dr. King was about; he was not just about us being free and all together as one.” Price underscored the significance of Dr. King’s sacrifice, noting, “That was what he died for.”

Arturo Solorio Chancellor Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap making her remarks.

Chancellor Rimando-Chareunsap also shared with the Collegian. “It means tradition of some of our best practices and partnership with others that have been a part of this for years,” she said. “It is a reminder of why we should feel inspired in the work that we do. I think that we are fortunate that our faculty, our staff, and all of our colleagues are here for the right reasons. They are here because they are passionate about students or what they are doing in their field, and so many of our colleagues do that in the name of equity and justice.”  In her words, “it is a reminder of the path that we are on and the work that we’re doing here and that we are really trying to make Dr. King’s dream come to fruition, of having equity and racial justice across the nation, and we’re just doing our part here in our corner of Seattle.”

A recording of the 51st Annual Community Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. is accessible here, and further details of the Seattle Colleges MLK Jr. Social Justice Week are available here.

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