‘Here for the people, and the love, and what MLK stood for’ at Wilmington peace march

The event is usually on MLK Day but was postponed until Presidents Day this year because of the record-setting COVID spike in January.

Marchers walk for peace and unity on the West Side of Wilmington. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Marchers walk for peace and unity on the West Side of Wilmington. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Led by a drumline, about 200 people marched for an hour Monday around Wilmington’s West Side to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This is the 10th annual peace march and celebration in honor of the revered preacher and civil rights icon who was assassinated in 1968. The event is normally held on Jan. 16, the national MLK Day holiday, but was delayed this year because Delaware was reeling then from a record-breaking COVID-19 spike. So it was held this year on Presidents Day.

Members of the Artistic Force drum line led the marchers. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

The marchers also gathered at 7th Street Bridge over Interstate 95 for a few hours of music, meals, and togetherness.

The event drew a racially diverse group of members from civic-oriented groups such as Wilmington Peacekeepers, Community Legal Aid Society and West Side Grows Together, as well as vendors selling jewelry, hats and oils, and others giving out free food.

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Jaquanne Daniels of Epiphany Church offered free food to marchers. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Branden Fletcher-Dominguez of Public Allies says Wilmington’s woes of gun violence, homelessness, and racial injustice can only be solved if the community rallies.

Branden Fletcher-Dominquez of Public Allies says King wanted economic justice for Black Americans. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

“Dr. King’s legacy before he died was to continue the work of building a more just and equitable society. Not only so that we can sit at the same table, White and Black, but also so that we could have economic equity and justice,’’ Fletcher Dominguez said. “It’s not just enough to be able to sit at the table, but can you afford to eat at the table?”

Event organizer Iz Balleto says he represents the Delaware Art Museum, 302 Guns Down and Guerilla Republic.

“We’re here for the people, for the love and what MLK stood for, and we’re here to bring all the people here together for unity,’’ Balleto said while setting up the sound stage. “That’s love and respect to everybody.”

Event organizer Iz Balleto leans down to greet Coby Owens of the Delaware NAACP. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Police Chief Robert Tracy said he was honored to walk with residents as law enforcement works to stem gun violence in Wilmington, which had a record 39 homicides in 2021.

“I can have the best crime strategy in the world but none of it has any long-term, sustainable success if we’re not doing it in partnership with the community,’’ Tracy said.

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Marchers make their way north on Adams Street. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

“Martin Luther King was all about this. He wanted to make sure he brought everybody together — all colors. And here you see a very diverse crowd all wanting the same thing and asking for the violence to stop.”

Monica Stanford carried her own peace sign. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Coby Owens of the Delaware NAACP concurred.

“Honestly, we’re all neighbors, right? And we should all start acting like it,” Owens said. “This is us coming together. It’s just a beautiful sight to see everyone’s faces out here today.”

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