What I saw on this year’s MLK Day march in Sacramento

Police lights flash in the distance. A crackling, fireworks-like noise and heavy booming sounds grow louder. Soon, you can make out young kids pounding drums and waving flags. They’re here: The Martin Luther King Jr. Day marchers.

Every MLK Day, students and neighbors leave from Grant High School in north Sacramento on an eight-mile trek to downtown. I’ve watched these marchers for years—the Grant drumline leading a procession of thousands of students, moms and dads, police and politicians and more—but, this year, I joined them.

Police cars and motorcycles shut down Highway 160 as we marched over the American River. Men and women cheered as we passed Loaves & Fishes. We dipped under the B Street overpass, and the shouts and whistles were louder than a football game. Finally, on K Street near the Convention Center, dancers from Grant shook and moved while the drummers and brass players let their instruments soar. An amazing scene, an energy downtown seldom experiences. It was awesome!

And then it was over. Marchers loaded onto buses back to their neighborhoods. Downtown slowly returned to its slumber.

America definitely has come a long way in the nearly 54 years since MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. But seeing all these black kids and families from the city’s inner-ring neighborhoods, folks who I seldom see downtown, reminded that we still have a way to go.

Here’s hoping this new and future downtown Sacramento will be a place for all races and economic backgrounds. Then, maybe every day on the grid will feel like MLK Day.