OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) — “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As millions of Americans took the day off to celebrate the federal holiday honoring Dr. King, thousands of Utahans, came together in a number of gatherings to amplify his messages.  

 On Monday morning, dozens of people huddled together at the Ogden City Amphitheater. A message ran out on the amphitheater’s audio system. “So, let’s stand together, let’s fight together, and we can make those wrongs right,” one of the guests stated.  

President Ronald Regan signed Martin Luther King Jr. Day into law 40 years ago, 15 years after Dr. King’s assassination. Americans celebrated the holiday for the first time a few years after it was signed into law. Today, Utahns are still fighting to realize Dr. King’s dream.

“It’s important that we’re working on housing, education, employment, criminal justice systems,” Ogden NAACP President Betty Sawyer told ABC4. “That work is still relevant and important, and not doing it is impacting families and communities in negative ways.”  

Sawyer is one of many who took time out of her day to remember and honor the work of Dr. King. In Ogden, dozens of people met together at the Marshal White Center for breakfast, and a rally, and then took to the streets to march to Ogden City Amphitheater where they finished the morning listening to a handful of speakers.

“And to respect each other,” Layton resident and attendee Bernadette Kemp stated. “We’re all human beings. We all bleed red. We all bleed red.”  

They shared a message of self-awareness.

“We may not be able to change everything, but we can change ourselves,” Ogden NAACP First Vice-President Willa Kemp said. “You know, change starts with me, so start there.”

They shared a message of representative government.

“We live together, we work together, and in order for us to enact laws that are going to help all of us, we have to do that together,” Layton City Council Member Bettina Smith Edmondson told ABC4. “We’re better together. We actually need to do that. Do better, live better, be better, and we can do that.”  

“I think each of us has an opportunity every day to choose love over hate,” University of Utah MLK Week Planning Chair Pamela Bishop added.  

At East High, the university held another rally and march. It too was an event that spread the message of Dr. King. A message that often involves human connection. “Small acts of kindness,” Bishop stated. “Little random acts of kindness are what we’re really trying to get people to consider. And not only that, but obviously the big opportunities as well.” Bishop added: “Dr. King’s message is as important today as it was during his lifetime, maybe even more.”

“And so, as we do these marches, as we reconnect with people, we invite them to sit down with us and work with us, and that’s why we have to continue to celebrate and commemorate,” Betty Sawyer told ABC4.   

If you didn’t get a chance to celebrate today, the University of Utah is hosting events all week long to commemorate and further the legacy of Dr. King.

The Ogden NAACP also invites the community to study material that expands on Dr. King’s work and the work of the NAACP.