HERMISTON - A hardy group of marchers braved frigid temperatures in Hermiston Monday to help keep Martin Luther King's dream alive.
Participants hefted signs bearing the images of the slain civil rights leader and other famous black Americans. Some sipped from cups of hot chocolate to ward off the cold as they walked the quarter mile or so from the Campus Life building, near Hermiston High School, to City Hall.
The group was black, white, Hispanic - young and old.
"It's not a black thing; it's not a white thing - it's a community thing," said Don Rome, who organized the march.
The Pendleton Baha'i Community hosted its fourth annual observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Pendleton Center for the Arts Monday evening. The group heard Chris Burford give a presentation, viewed a documentary and enjoyed music and refreshments.
"It went great," Baha'i Community member Chris Burford said. "We had about 35 people. Each year it's better attended and we get better at doing it."
At the march, Earl Wilson, of Hermiston, held a portrait of King high. He said his family has participated every year since the march's inception in 2002. As he walked, Wilson talked of the importance of keeping King's vision alive.
"If we stop doing what he set out for us to do - his work would have been for nothing," he said.
Kenny Peterson lauded King, the youngest man ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize, for his unaggressive style.
"I appreciate what Dr. King did," said Peterson, of Hermiston. "I liked Dr. King for his advocacy for change with non-violent means."
Rome, the president of Hermiston's Black International Awareness Club, addressed the group from the steps of the Hermiston City Hall.
"We are here not just because of a man," he said, "but because of a man's will to see people in this beautiful country of ours live together with no prejudice."
Rome, who recently returned from Iraq, expressed admiration for the non-violent way King, a Baptist minister, lived out his vision.
"What drove this man to sit still while people spat and slapped his face?" Rome asked. "I think it was pure determination fueled by God's spirit."
Determination, he said, is one of the most powerful things on the planet.
"With it, we can build mountains...," Rome said.
Bob Severson, mayor of Hermiston, praised King for his desire to have the races come together peacefully.
"We're here today to celebrate a man who truly embraced an inclusive society," Severson said.
Angie Kile, of Hermiston, urged adults to be as color-blind as their children.
"Children can play together and not even notice the difference - they don't see color," she said. "As adults, that should be our goal, too."
The crowd listened to excerpts from King's speeches, poetry by Maya Angelou and a Jimmy Hendrix-style version of the national anthem played by Sandstone Middle School student Yusef Johnson.
Rome distilled the march's message into a single question.
"We have to ask ourselves," he said, "What can we do to keep this dream alive?"