By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Snow crunched as students, faculty and staff members at St. Ambrose University walked from Christ the King Chapel to the Rogalski Center during a silent march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 25.
The celebration originally was scheduled for Jan. 22 but rescheduled due to freezing rain and snow. As light snow fell Jan. 25, a crowd met in the chapel’s gathering space for a shorter walk due to snowfall and cold temperatures. St. Ambrose Chaplain Father Thom Hennen opened the event with prayer. Ryan Saddler, the university’s director of diversity and planner of the MLK event, noted that even the first march, held a half-century ago in Selma, Ala., had to be rescheduled.
He showed a video about the Davenport Civil Rights History Walking Tour. The video featured seven markers and profiled the late Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a longtime civil rights advocate who helped bring King to Davenport to receive the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in 1965. Saddler noted that an eighth marker has been added at St. Ambrose. “It is important that the younger generation know what their parents or grandparents encountered,” Saddler said. “We can learn a lot about history.”
Thomas Mason, Class of ’91, spoke about the collaborative effort among the city of Davenport, local church leaders and residents to designate Marquette Street in King’s honor. In 2001, the Rev. Rogers Kirk of Third Missionary Baptist Church in Davenport and the Emerging Black Professionals of the Quad Cities purchased nine signs marking the honor. In 2010, St. Ambrose’s diversity work group partnered with the city to complete installation of the signage from the Mississippi River to 65th Street. St. Ambrose raised the funds and the city installed the signs.
“The project was special because fundraising was from many St. Ambrose constituencies: administration, faculty, staff, alumni, student groups and St. Ambrose friends,” Mason said. As of December 2017, 955 streets in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have been named in honor of King. Signs bear either his full name, MLK or something similar. Combined with the U.S. figures, worldwide, at least 1,000 streets have been named in his honor, Mason said. King is also the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor and the only non-president memorialized on the great Mall in Washington, D.C., Mason added.
St. Ambrose University President Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, said King is remembered all over the world as a passionate advocate for peaceful change. His statue stands above the west door of Westminster Abbey in London along with other 20th century martyrs who gave their lives for such causes. “We remember him with particular pride because we were part of his receiving the Pacem in Terris award here in Davenport in 1965.”
Sr. Lescinski continued, “Let us today not just remember this great man, but recommit ourselves to working for peace and for justice, values that have been a part of St. Ambrose for generations.”
As the event ended, participants sang “We Shall Overcome.” Then they walked silently down the chapel building’s stairwell and outside to the Rogalski Center where they were served hot chocolate.
Senior Delina Tesfamichael, an international studies and political science major, said she participated because she believes in fighting for justice. “We don’t want history to repeat itself. We need to share our voice.”
Sites on the Civil Rights History Walking tour in Davenport:
• Charles and Ann Toney’s Home, 1010 Western Ave.
• Toney’s Barber and Beauty Shop, southwest corner of 11th & Ripley streets.
• The Colonial Fountain, northeast corner of Harrison and 12th streets.
• St. Anthony Catholic Church, 417 N. Main St.
• Natatorium 104 S. Main St. (old swimming pool).
• LeClaire Park Bandshell 400 W. Beiderbecke Dr.
• Cook’s Point, West River Drive between Schmidt and Howell streets.
• St. Ambrose University, outside Christ the King Chapel.