For the second year, popular singer and musician Stevie Wonder will lead a march on the nation's capitol to garner support for making the Jan. 15 birthday of the late civil rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a national holiday.
The proposal before Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday has become Wonder's personal crusade. He is paying for the march out of his own pocket at an undisclosed cost.
A crowd of thousands from around the country gathered in the snow last year on the 52nd anniversary of King's birth to hear Wonder, Martin L. King III and various civil rights leaders. Plans for next week's march and birthday commemoration promise even more activities than last year. Many churches will have programs and organizers say efforts to get King holiday petitions signed and delivered to Congress will be stepped up considerably this year. The following is a sample of the many events that have been planned:
The national march will assemble at 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 15. Wonder will lead the procession from the Washington Monument to the steps of the Capitol. In addition to a musical performance by the renowned singer, there will be speeches by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy, Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and others.
Theresa Cropper, national coordinator of the march, said she is spearheading the "mobilization" of participants and a legislative drive that is being organized through the office of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).
"This year we're trying to get some lobbying done," said Kevin Sample, a Conyers aide, who feels this year's effort will be much better organized. He said a description of the proposed legislation to make King's birthday a holiday has been sent to lobbyists across the country who will be coming to Washington for the march, along with petitions that will be delivered to members of Congress next week.
Howard University's television station, WHMM-channel 32, will film Wonder's march as well as Coretta Scott King's dedication in Atlanta of the Freedom Hall Complex of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change. Both events will be aired the evening of Jan. 15 on most public television stations.
Seventeen states and the District have already made the slain civil rights leader's birthday a holiday. In the District, most city government employes will have the day off. All traffic and parking regulations will be enforced, however, and Metro subway and buses will operate on a normal weekday schedule.
Community groups and churches around the city will hold memorial observances separate from the march.
At the same time Stevie Wonder is singing his way down Constitution Avenue, citizens in Ward 8 will hold their fourth annual Martin Luther King Day parade down the avenue in Southeast that bears his name. Parade grand marshals will be D.C. recording star Stacey Lattisaw and former Washington Bullets star Wes Unseld.
Also at 10 a.m., Mayor Marion Barry, City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, Councilman William Spaulding and local church leaders will participate in a commemorative program at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library at Ninth and G streets NW.
In addition to those activities, the city's 10-year-old Committee to Commemorate the Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has planned a schedule of events that begin this Saturday evening with a reception for committee members and friends at the 19th Street Baptist Church on 16th Street NW. Helen Tate, committee chairperson, said the following activities also are planned:
Sunday, Jan. 10--Memorial service, 4 p.m., at the Plymouth Congregational Church, 5313 N. Capitol Street. D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy will be the guest speaker.
Wednesday, Jan. 13--Musical at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Third and I streets NW, 7 p.m., featuring area choirs.
Friday, Jan. 15--Committee scholarship dinner and "Pageant of Peace" at the Union Wesley AME Zion Church, 1860 Michigan Ave., 7 p.m. Admission $15.
Sunday, Jan. 17--Coretta Scott King will speak at the Washington Cathederal on Wisconsin Avenue, 4 p.m.