Martin Luther King Jr. Day has struggled to even exist in Mesa over the years, and now the holiday faces another tough uphill battle.
The annual MLK Day parade was one of several special events placed on the city chopping block after voters rejected a property tax measure in May, leaving the parade with zero funding for 2007.
But John Goodie, the parade’s chairman and a city employee, was still holding out hope this week that he will be able to help raise the $10,000 needed to keep the parade alive.
“It was good for the city of Mesa to host this for all these years,” Goodie said. “Mesa has been looked at as a lily white community.”
In 1968, King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray, an escaped convict. Fifteen years later, Congress voted to make King’s birthday a national holiday to highlight his civil rights activism.
The holiday is traditionally observed on the third Monday of January, around the time of King’s birthday, Jan. 15. It’s the only federal holiday honoring a black person.
MLK Day has proven to be controversial in Mesa. In 1992, voters actually rescinded a decision by the City Council to officially observe the holiday, and it took two efforts by a grass-roots organization to finally reinstate it in 1996.
“We’ve had a rocky road here in Mesa,” said Goodie, who spearheaded the efforts to keep the holiday alive in Mesa.
Over the years, the MLK parade has drawn several thousand participants, Goodie said.
Pat Gilbert, a former Mesa councilman who used to serve on the MLK Celebration Committee, said not having a parade next year would be Mesa’s loss.
“These celebrations are part and parcel of what does make a community,” Gilbert said. “It is not just streets and park space and the brick and mortar part, but it’s how we acknowledge and celebrate and create activities for people to enjoy.”
Goodie said he has not officially started up a campaign to raise funds, but he hopes to get one going. One of the biggest expenses has been paying for police security, which covers barricades, permits and a $1 million insurance policy, among other things.
Send checks to “Save the MLK Parade” at MesaCAN, 635 E. Broadway Road, Mesa, AZ 85203.
Information: John Goodie, (480) 329-3116, firstname.lastname@example.org.