News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

March for Hope helps kids dream big

The town’s third March for Hope took place on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Students and their siblings, accompanied by a handful of adults and dogs, walked down the town’s main sidewalks. They carried hand-painted signs with messages about their dreams: peace, smiles, equality, and homes for everyone.

Seven-year-old Ani Orange carried rainbow flags and a handmade sign reading “Equality 4 All.” A second grader at Sisters Elementary School, she learned about Dr. King at school and from her parents.

Ani said, “He changed the world with his kindness.”

Zinnia Crabtree is a student in the fourth-grade class of march organizer “Mr. W.” (Clay Warburton). She was inspired to join in because “Martin Luther King is just a really important part of our community, what he fought for... equality and rights for everyone.

“He made so many speeches,” she said. “His house was bombed twice, and he kept going. He went to jail 29 times, and he kept going. So it’s pretty amazing.”

Did his example make make Zinnia want to keep going too? “Yes,” she said firmly. “It makes me want to fight for everyone, to say that everyone has a place here.”

Her dad, Scott Crabtree, walked along Cascade Avenue carrying a sign that read “Black Lives Matter.” He heard a bunch of supportive honking from a truck driver. “I looked up and it was a Black man driving,” said Crabtree.“I felt pleased that he was able to see a bit of support in Sisters for Black lives.”

The truck driver wasn’t the only appreciative passerby. Pedestrians waved and smiled. Many drivers honked and waved enthusiastically.

After a photo session at the town’s horse statue, the small crowd gathered around a wagon at Fir Street Park. From a loudspeaker inside the wagon boomed the unmistakable voice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation,” he correctly predicted, launching into what later became known as the “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy,” thrummed Dr. King’s recorded voice. “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

Most of the kids and dogs, parents, and other adults, listened respectfully. Some wiggling and sniffling went on too.

“I have a dream,” proclaimed Dr. King, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Much of the speech invoked patriotism, inspiring citizens to live up to the potential of the Founders and Abraham Lincoln.

King thundered to a close: “When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing” that we are free at last.

Afterward, organizer Clay Warburton thanked his students, their families, and others for joining in. Warburton grew up in Sisters and now teaches fourth grade at Sisters Elementary School. He organized the first March for Hope before Covid.

“It started from that idea that when we look at history, we see these civil rights heroes and the impact they made for our country,” he said. “And we think about our own personal hopes and dreams that we have for our future.

“I like that it’s a national holiday, and we can do something to connect with that holiday versus just taking a day off,” he added.

Though Dr. King’s work addressed racism in the United States, “this march is not explicitly about race in our culture,” said Warburton. “This march is about understanding that you can move towards a better future, and that you are the difference-maker.”

He believes Dr. King was “amazing at sharing his hopes and dreams, and inspiring people. One person inspiring millions.”

Agency is important to Warburton. He wants kids to feel, “I am in control of the voice in my life. I can share that with my community and reach for my dreams, and dream big.”

Warburton imagines that someday the March could become a larger civic event, with speakers and more community engagement.

The March focuses on inspiration rather than politics. As he explained, “When we can all see each other as having hopes and dreams, and working for a better country, a better community, that can’t help but bridge divides.”


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