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Rally honors 35th anniversary of a `dream'

Published: Saturday, Aug. 29 1998 12:00 a.m. MDT

Rev. France Davis had no idea what he was witnessing that steamy day in 1963.

Washington, D.C., was just a convenient stop for him, on the way home to Georgia after completing a job in New Jersey. There in the nation's capital, he heard about a march and a man named King. He decided to stop and listen.Thirty-five years later, the Calvary Baptist Church pastor remembers the March on Washington well.

"What do I remember? I remember there were lots of speeches I don't remember. But there was one that was not only informational, but inspirational. A vehicle to bring the civil rights movement forward."

The speech was one man's dream - a dream that has since become a beacon of freedom and equality for people worldwide .

At the Federal Building in Salt Lake City Friday, some 35 people gathered to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the March on Washington and the famous "I Have a Dream" speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr.

The rally featured prominent community and government leaders, including Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP; Rep. Merrill Cook, R-Utah; Lt. Gov. Olene Walker; Perry Mathews, assistant director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs; and Davis, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church.

"We use this commemoration as a measuring stick to see how far we've come, if we're still in the dream," said Edward Lewis Jr., president of the Tri-State Conference (Idaho, Nevada, Utah) of the NAACP. "And essentially we are. We're still in the dream. We're talking today about the same issues we were talking about 35 years ago."

The focus of Friday's rally was to motivate people to register to vote. Every vote counts, speakers said. There are no meaningless votes or small elections.

And, to pass up on the opportunity to vote is to pass up on the realization of King's dream.

King dreamed of a day when people - all people - would be able to rise up and be judged by their character, not their skin color. He dreamed of a day when people would be empowered to take hold of the freedom America offers them.

Voting is the voice of that freedom, said Tamera Baggett, executive director of JEDI (Justice, Economic Dignity and Independence) Women.

"Your vote is your power," she said. "Don't let anyone take away your power."

Voting is especially important in areas where minority populations are small, Lewis said. In those areas, every vote counts.

Williams agreed.

"We are gathered here today to send a clear message that our votes count," she said. "I am proud that my brown, black, red, yellow and white brothers and sisters see the need to unite. If we are to make change, we must all come together . . . We are here today sending a statement that we will never again be told that our votes do not mat-ter."

Though the rally echoed the voices of history, Davis said he, too, has a dream. A dream for the future of Utah.

"I have a dream, about all of us being accepted, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or background," he said. He dreams about equitable housing, education, job opportunities and political involvement by people of color throughout the state.

But his dream, like King's, is a work in progress, he said.

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