By Elizabeth Stortroen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that took a giant leap toward realization in November, when America’s first black president-elect, Barack Obama, stood up and said, “Yes we can.”
A woman holds out a Barack Obama flag for display after the Martin Luther King Jr. Marade in Denver on Monday.
“Finally, the dream is here,” said Marlene Engleman, of Denver, as she waited for Denver’s 24th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Marade (march and parade) to enter Civic Center Park on Monday. “Everything we dreamed of and wanted in the ’60s has come to reality, and that dream has manifested itself today.”
Emotions charged the Marade crowd, bringing chills to their spines and tears to their eyes as they celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day just one day before the inauguration of Barack Obama.
The record-breaking crowd, estimated by police at 18,000 to 20,000, was about three times the size of last year’s Marade.
The celebration began in City Park, where people’s steps seemed to have extra bounce as they made their way along the 5K route west on Colfax Avenue to the Civic Center.
As they arrived at the Civic Center, thousands of people of all colors, ages, backgrounds and denominations stood shoulder to shoulder to celebrate King’s life and memory.
A little girl waves an American flag in front of the state Capitol during the final leg of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Marade.
Sherry Pryor, of Denver, was attending the King celebration for the first time.
“I wanted to come this year because it is a very historical time,” Pryor said as she stood beside her husband. “I just believe it is so historical how everything is connected with the timing of celebrating Dr. King’s memory and the inauguration of Obama.”
Colorado’s political leaders also noted the day’s historical significance as they paid tribute to King’s influence on the nation.
Newly elected Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Udall, who remained in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration, issued a statement:
“Nothing more profoundly embodies that progress than the fact that (on Tuesday), Barack Obama will stand in front of the U.S. Capitol, face the Lincoln Memorial — where Dr. King declared his dream — and address the American people for the first time as president of the United States.
“As we set out to write this new chapter in our country’s history, let us all be guided by Dr. King’s voice of peace, equality and justice.” Udall said.
Civic Center emcee Tamara Banks observed that it’s not a coincidence the Martin Luther King Day celebration would be followed a day later by Obama’s presidential inauguration.
“Today we are celebrating the message (Dr. King) left us,” Banks said. “And tomorrow we are seeing another vision he had come to reality.”
A hunger to be part of a historic moment seemed to permeate the crowd.
“I am so excited to be here and to see everyone united together,” said Cathy Blanton, of Denver. “Today is
the day (Dr. King’s) dream came true and this uniting is the change we are seeing today.”
Gov. Bill Ritter, who also was in Washington for the inauguration, said in a statement, “King would be proud to see how far we have come toward achieving his dream of judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.”