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King County Executive
Dow Constantine

Community comes together to celebrate legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


More than 600 people packed the Paramount Theatre in Seattle today to celebrate the accomplishments of men in women in this region who share Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of "Breaking Barriers," the theme of King County's 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.


mlkflagcMore than 600 people packed the Paramount Theatre in Seattle today to celebrate the accomplishments of men in women in this region who share Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of "Breaking Barriers," the theme of King County's 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

Marcia Botzer, Alfredo Arrequin, Sherman Alexie, Thelma Dewitty, Dolores Sibonga and Charles Close were among the 36 King County residents featured as "barrier breakers" in a video produced by 4Culture for the celebration. The video recognized them for "the content of their character," as Dr. King famously stated as a true judgment of any person.

In honoring Dr. King's legacy, King County Executive Ron Sims today expanded on the celebration's theme by noting the historic 2008 federal election which culminates next week with the swearing in of the nation's first African American president, Barack Obama.

"Progress of this magnitude often breeds complacency, and this is no time to become lax or comfortable," Sims said, noting the sobering facts from a report, "Communities Count" recently issued by Seattle-King County Public Health and its partners. "Data from across the nation still indicate gaping disparities in health, socioeconomic status and educational achievement between racial and class groups," Sims said.

A disparity in the data led Executive Sims to launch the Equity and Social Justice Initiative in 2008. The initiative commits King County to consider social equity when key policies, programs and funding decisions are developed and implemented.

Since the initiative began, hundreds of members of the public, county officials and staff have met to discuss the meaning of equity and social justice, and to join together in search of solutions.

"I expect the benefits of our efforts will be long and deep if we do it right," Sims said. "Our county's viability and quality of life will increase, our competitiveness will grow, and we will have been part of the next movement for change."

At today's celebration, King County Council Chair Dow Constantine presented one of two King County Humanitarian Awards to King County Judge Wesley Saint Clair, the judge presiding over the King County Superior Court Drug Diversion Court. Constantine called Saint Clair's commitment to the participants in the drug court, both inside and outside the courtroom, the embodiment of Dr. King's call to serve the community.

"Dr. King said that life's most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'" Constantine said. "Judge Saint Clair's dedication to those working to turn their lives around extends beyond his work in the courtroom. That commitment is a shining example of Dr. King's belief that the most important tool you need to help your fellow man is ‘a heart full of grace.'"

mlkgroup3King County Metro Rideshare Operations received the Group Humanitarian Award from Executive Sims for its success in expanding commuter van ridership to low-income wage earners, which is a community that had been previously underserved. Sims said the Metro group's efforts to reach out demonstrate its group's commitment to Dr. King's vision.

King County Councilmember Larry Gossett joined Executive Sims in unveiling the County's new flag, complete with the likeness of Dr. King, which has been the county's logo since March 2007.

"Two years ago, we gave a gift to future generations – a visual reminder that this county was named after America's foremost civil rights leader," Gossett said. "Today, that likeness is now seen throughout King County, a symbol and reminder of who he was, what he stood for, and what we want the county we live in to strive to achieve."

Another highlight of the celebration was the presentation of the awards in the essay writing contest, sponsored by the King County Civil Rights Commission. This contest asked eighth graders throughout King County to reflect on the theme of "Breaking Barriers." Jaida Raquel Morgan from Seattle's Lake Washington Girls Middle School won first prize; second and third prizes were awarded to Katie Carroll of Kent, who attends Cedar Heights Middle School and Indigo Trigg-Hauger , of Redmond, from Kirkland Junior School . Copies of the winning essays are available on the Commission's Web site at

Local composer, musician and artist Paul Rucker provided the music at the celebration. His quartet featured vocalist Josephine Howell, Hans Teuber on saxophone, Victor Noriega on piano, and Byron Vannoy on drums.

This event will be televised on King County Television, seen on Comcast and Broadstripe Cable Channel 22, on the following dates:

Friday Jan. 16

7 p.m.

Saturday Jan. 17

2:30 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Sunday Jan. 18

9:30 p.m.

Other playback times will be listed on the online schedule at

For more information about the celebration, contact Bailey de Iongh at 206-296-7652 or e-mail

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King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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