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On Equal Ground
by Joshua H. Silavent
Jan 16, 2012 | 1162 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Dan McGee
By Dan McGee
Tribune/Dan McGee - Former musician Leon William Smith, who as a child knew the civil rights leader, participates in Monday’s caravan.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Former musician Leon William Smith, who as a child knew the civil rights leader, participates in Monday’s caravan.
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Tribune/Dan McGee - Cars leave from the Second Baptist Church in Reno on Monday for the annual caravan honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Riding in the lead car was Mary Cooper, whose late husband, Onie, spearheaded the effort to have part of US 395 named after King.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Cars leave from the Second Baptist Church in Reno on Monday for the annual caravan honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Riding in the lead car was Mary Cooper, whose late husband, Onie, spearheaded the effort to have part of US 395 named after King.
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RENO — Since its inception 14 years ago, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Caravan has become an annual tradition in Reno and on Monday more than 20 cars packed with celebrants and adorned with balloons, signs and red, white and blue ribbons cruised along the portion of U.S. 395 named in honor of the late civil rights leader.

The procession commemorating the 26th annual MLK Day streamed out of the Second Baptist Church onto city streets dusted with the first snowfall of the season.

Leading the pack was Bishop Gene Savoy Jr., chairman of the Northern Nevada Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Committee.

“It’s important to remember and to celebrate the life and the legacy and the work of Dr. King,” Savoy said.

In keeping with King’s message of equality, the caravan was comprised of men and women, young and old, black and white.

Among the participants was Alex Levitan, 12, whose perspective seemed to belie his age.

“It’s a holiday that makes sense,” he said. “Everyone has the same rights. I don’t see any difference.”

Leon Williams Smith, 61, a local gospel musician, was inspired by the many faces he saw in attendance.

“I’m glad to see all races are together,” he said.

Smith grew up in Montgomery, Ala. in the days of racial segregation. His mother rode the bus with Rosa Parks and he personally knew King as a child.

“I used to pull on Rev. King’s robes,” Smith said with a huge grin.

Though King is best remembered for his call to civil rights, the dream he spoke so eloquently of in Washington in 1963 entailed much more than social justice.

Creating economic opportunity for all races and classes was equally important to King, and that message, perhaps, resonates now more than ever as the effects of the Great Recession linger.

“It’s a good time for us to be having this conversation, which is as valid now as it was 50 years ago,” Savoy said. “And it’s important for young people to keep this work up. There is still much to be done.”

King had another message, too, one that transcended politics and society and promised a better tomorrow for anyone who would listen.

“His message was to love others,” Smith said.
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