Monday January 19th marked another year for the annual Southside MLK (Martin Luther King Jr.) march. The march began at Sacramento City College and ended at the Sacramento Convention Center in downtown Sacramento. There were several different festivities at the convention center all relating to Martin Luther King Jr. The different booths and activities educated people on the history of who MLK was, what he did for America, and why he was so important.

One 21 year old participant was more than eager to share her thoughts about the entire event. Diauni Robinson, a Youth Peer Mentor at Stanford Youth Solutions, is also a full time student at Sacramento State University College.

Me: “How long have you been a resident of Sacramento California? What part of Sacramento?”

Robinson: “I’ve been a resident of Sacramento for the majority of my life, since I was 2. I grew up all over this city, South Sacramento, North Highlands, and Roseville being the main areas.”

Me: “As a resident of this area, how important is it to you that people participate in the MLK March?”

Robinson: “It’s important that people participate in the MLK March. There’s so much I want to say here. Our Blackness is love.  You know, in elementary school, the very first thing we learn about ourselves is that we were slaves, inhuman, and in pain, as is if we had/were nothing before our arrival to America.  We, as Black people, have been stripped of so many sacred facets of who we are: our history, land, philosophy, spirituality, our identities are no longer our own.  They are an assimilation of White America.  We are slowly but surely coming back to the Kings and Queens we were and are. A simple march like this one brings so much value to self and unity amongst people of all colors, but especially the Black community. Awareness, active participation, and holding reverence for our ancestors who paved the way for us to be here today; it matters.”

Me: “Does this march mean anything to you personally?”

Robinson: “Yes, this march meant a lot to me.  I’ve always had a strenuous passion for Black rights. It brought me to a place where I finally felt whole, if only for a couple hours.  It felt as though I was bringing honor to those women and men who walked before us, and letting the world know, that we have so much more work to do.”

Me: “What specifically has MLK done for you personally?”

Robinson: “Well one of many things Dr. King has allowed me to do, is be an active citizen in the political realm, by being able to vote at my own will, without all of the loopholes in place made especially for minority groups.  I get to have a voice in who creates my rules. That’s extremely significant.”

Me: “Do you think that MLK has accomplished his “dream”? If not, how do you think we as a society today can help change that?”

Robinson: “No, I believe that time is cyclical, not linear. Many of the injustices Dr. King spoke about are parallel to what we face today.  From Mike Brown to Tamir Rice, our people still remain at the forefront of a war that cannot be won unless the oppressor is identified, unless we can have open conversations about race in America. Let’s start there.”

Me: “Do you believe the march was a success this year? If not, how can the word about it be better spread?”

Robinson: “I do! There were hundreds of people. It was absolutely incredible, and to have the support of the local government and police department made it that much more beautiful.”

Me: “What were some of your thoughts and feelings during the march?”

Robinson:  “To be honest, I had so many mixed emotions. I was proud, afraid, invigorated, angry, hopeful, inspired, and… full.”

Me: “Will you be marching next year?”

Robinson: “Definitely.”

Me: “What was your favorite part or the march? Or least favorite?”

Robinson: “My favorite part of the march was the very beginning.  People were excited, the energy was amazing. Music was blaring, people were smiling, Dr. King’s speech was being played over loudspeakers. My heart was overflowing with warmth.  As the march continued, though, I felt moods shift and speech grow frustrated. Reality may have kicked in after the first few miles, but that’s okay.  Silence is consent.  Expression is necessary.”

Me: “Anything else you would like to add?”

Robinson: “I would just like to say, that we love you King, and X, and Davis. We will never forget the impact that you had on this world and on our lives. Your sacrifices are our blessings.”

The 2015 MLK march had a large turnout this year. With tensions between people of color and law enforcement, MLK Day was especially important and reminded participants what our greater mission as one society should be.