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BY AJ TRAGER
DETROIT – The 12th annual MLK Day Freedom Rally and March comes to Detroit Jan.19 to recognize the contributions Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others brought that paved way for the Civil Rights movement during the ’60s and ’70s.
This year’s theme for the rally is “From Selma to Detroit: The Struggle For Democracy, Peace and Social Justice Continues,” and many leaders in the Motor City have signed up to speak for #BlackLivesMatter.
The situations in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York illustrate that a significant amount of racial unrest and social inequality is ripe in the American people. In response to those incidents and the differential treatment of Americans based on their race, tens of thousands of individuals have gathered through demonstrations and rallies to stand with black brothers and sisters.
“I think people are becoming aware of the ongoing struggles, more than ever before,” Lui Francesco said. “I think we still have a way to go before we start to see big changes. I don’t believe it will happen over night but a lot more people are voicing out to see change, rather than passively waiting for the change to take place, so I’m very hopeful.”
Francesco, a trans man from Japan, is one of the organizers for the event. He gathered support and promoted outreach to Catholic communities from Westland to Detroit as well as created and managed SNS accounts for the event on different platforms.
“It speaks to me because I am a trans individual who at times has to be afraid of the surroundings in my own life, like police brutality, due to my gender identity. Dr. King’s spirit on inclusivity speaks to me that I, too, need to speak out on any injustice, not just the ones that concerns me personally or directly, but all injustices to any human brothers or sisters.”
Francesco’s activism is focused on how forms and systems of oppression, domination or discrimination collide, also known as intersectionality. He wants to have Detroit seen as more lively and as not a lost cause. LGBT rights, like race rights, are topics that social justice workers spend a lot of energy promoting and raising awareness. Francesco hopes that as a result of this march Detroiters will see that his type of work is needed in the city and that the LGBT community needs to be intersectional on all human rights.
“We often appreciate straight allies who fight with us when we fight for our rights. It is our time to be the ally for racial justice, social justice and for all human dignity and rights. When we fight for equality, we need to fight for equality for all. Not just trans, not just LGB, but all races,” Francesco said.
From Selma to Detroit will be held at the Central United Methodist Church located at 23 E. Adams in Detroit. The rally will begin at noon followed by a march at 1:30 p.m. and cultural event services at 3 p.m.
Speaking at the rally will be Rev. Dr. Jill Hardt Zundel, pastor at Central United Methodist Church; Gloria Aneb House, Cheryl Labash and Carol Lane speaking in tribute to Claudia Morcom; JoAnn Watson, presenting tribute to congressman John Conyers Jr.; Michael Reynolds of the Michigan Coalition of Human Rights; Marian Kramer, giving tribute to General Baker; Mary Sheffield of the Detroit City Council presenting the Spirit of Detroit Awards and Alice B. Jennings and Jerry Goldberg who will discuss the struggle for water and the current status of the Detroit water shutoffs.
For more information and to sign up for the event visit the Facebook event page.