Utahns turn MLK Day into a day of service

Posted at 4:18 PM, Jan 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-20 23:47:29-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Across the state, people remembered Martin Luther King Jr. Day with service projects and calls for action on civil rights issues.

"MLK led the way, stand up for social justice today!" students at Westminster College chanted as they marched down 2100 South on Monday, carrying signs with Dr. King's picture on them.

Tamara Stevenson, an assistant professor of communication at Westminster College, said the march was "to be visible."

"To make the cause of Dr. King's works to be even more visible, so that folks will understand how reachable and attainable Dr. King's message is of equality, civil rights for all," she said. "It's a message that's still needed in the 21st century."

Organizers called for Monday to be a "day on" and not a "day off," encouraging community service. At the Utah Food Bank, volunteers helped fill boxes of food to go out to more than a thousand needy senior citizens.

"What you're doing today, and what we do as a community, as a generous community, makes an enormous difference in people's lives," Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said to the crowd.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Salt Lake Branch held its annual luncheon, giving out scholarships to students and honoring community leaders. While civil rights have advanced in the decades since Dr. King's death, NAACP Salt Lake Branch President Jeanetta Williams said more must be done.

"We're working on those issues," she said. "Discrimination in the workplace, discrimination in schools, anti-bullying."

Williams said racism still exists, and it exists in Utah. She recently fielded a call from someone claiming their neighbors did not want an African-American living near them. In an interview with FOX 13, she also spoke out about Utah's Amendment 3 case dealing with same-sex marriage.

"The NAACP is supportive of marriage equality," she said.

Williams said she did not believe the state of Utah should appeal the federal judge's ruling striking down Amendment 3, which cleared the way for same-sex marriage in the state.

"They shouldn't waste all the money, taxpayer's money, because I really think it's going to be the law of the land," Williams told FOX 13. "We need to just go ahead and accept it the way it is and stop the legal battles on it."