Utah Martin Luther King Commission celebrates 25 years fighting for social justice, human rights

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SALT LAKE CITY – It was a day of celebration for a group of Utahns who are continuing the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr. as the Utah Martin Luther King Human Rights Commission celebrated its 25-year anniversary at the Utah State Capitol Thursday.

Governor Norm Bangerter formed the commission and gave them the charge to become a “snapshot of humanity for the state of Utah”, a task that has been met with some resistance.

Burundi drummers kicked off the celebration inside the Capitol Rotunda, a tribute to commission members past and present who are carrying out the mission of the civil rights leader.

“Our hope is that all of you who are gathered here today will leave inspired to be drum majors for justice in your community,” said, Dr. Rob Harter, chairman of the MLK Commission.

Governor Gary Herbert oversees the commission. He applauded efforts to bring people together in the fight for social justice and human rights.

“It's not what we are today, which is certainly imperfect, it's what we can become tomorrow if we work together,” Herbert said.

Since the commission’s inception in 1991, the face of Utah has changed, opening doors for minorities.

“As the first Black American woman elected to a state level position in Utah, my journey has been possible partly because of your contribution and sacrifice,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-District 23.

The commission’s first order of business was to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but not everyone caught onto the vision.

“Most felt like he wasn't connected to the state, he had no real reference point,” said Dr. Forrest Crawford, the original chairman of the MLK Commission.

They worked with legislators in seeing the value of honoring and recognizing King’s legacy. In 1993, a symbol of that cooperation was unveiled: the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“6th South is a constant reminder, an honorary reminder of the legacy and relationship we have with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Dr. Crawford.

Important milestones to build on as they push for equality, diversity and inclusion.

“At the very top of what King stood for is humanity,” Dr. Crawford said.

The commission is hopeful by planting a deep appreciation of humanity in the younger generation, they'll be in good hands.