38th annual MLK Jr. birthday celebration is a success
Jan. 16, 2023 was the Loretto Community’s 38th year to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The event is known as a Marade.
In 1983, the U.S. Congress introduced a bill stating that the third Monday of January would be observed as a federal holiday. Colorado State Representative Wilma Webb worked tirelessly locally and nationally for the passage and observance of the bill. On April 4, 1985, the Colorado governor declared it a Colorado holiday.
During the early years of the holiday, dozens of Loretto members and friends walked Colfax Avenue, always prepared for inclement weather. The record low temperature over the years was seven degrees. For increased visibility of our annual supportive presence, Mary Ann Coyle, Mary Ann Cunningham and Pat McCormick created the large yellow and maroon banner, which is elevated above the heads of carriers and marchers.
We were regularly joined by peace and justice friends. On a few occasions, we met up with our Buddhist monk friend, Gyosen Sawada, from Fukishima, Japan. In the 1980s, Sawada was missioned to the U.S. to pray by chant at nuclear weapons sites. Regina Drey, liaison between St Mary’s Academy and Loretto, annually encourages faculty, students, and parents to participate in the Marade. Joe Riehl, social studies teacher at St. Mary’s, his wife, Eboni, their children, Selah, Zoe and Solomon, are always ready to help carry the banner which reads, “The Loretto Community Honors The Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
The spirit of the event is joyous as the very young are pulled in wagons or carried on parents’ shoulders. Teens and adults play in marching bands as the crowd walks briskly to Denver’s Civic Center to celebrate and be treated to MLK birthday cake. The Loretto Community marchers stop at the lawn of the state capitol for our annual group photo.
Today, we more fully understand that we are called to honor Dr. King as much for his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at the New York City Riverside Church one year before he was murdered, as we honor him for his “Mountaintop” speech in Tennessee the night before he was assassinated. In each speech, he continues his call for equality, human rights and nonviolence. May we be guided by his wise teachings and actions to advance all forms of national, global and planetary unity.