Johnson County residents, elected officials march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Residents said it is important to remember King even if you don’t have the day off from work during the federal holiday.

Iowa+City+community+members+march+in+the+Unity+Rally+and+March+in+Iowa+City+on+Monday%2C+Jan.+16%2C+2023.+

Sabine Martin

Iowa City community members march in the Unity Rally and March in Iowa City on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023.

Sabine Martin, Managing Editor


Over 200 Johnson County residents and elected officials marched on Monday morning from Eastdale Plaza to Mercer Park Gym while singing the gospel song “We shall overcome” in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Unity Rally and March organized by the City of Iowa City was part of a “Day of Service” dedicated to King. Marchers flooded the Mercer Park Gym following the short walk to celebrate King’s message with a rally, speakers, and performances.

Iowa City residents Montana and Jessie Hammonds took personal days off of their jobs to attend the rally for the first time.

“You can’t forget Dr. Martin Luther King and everything he meant for civil rights and not just for African Americans but for everybody,” Montana Hammonds said. “It’s a big deal for me to start taking the day off whether I had PTO or not. It’s a federal holiday and it’s a day that still needs to be recognized by everybody.”

Montana Hammonds said he is happy that the city was involved in organizing the rally. He added that Martin Luther King Jr. Day isn’t just one day of recognition.

“You have to keep pushing the envelope when it comes to civil rights,” Montana Hammonds said. “I think that’s what Dr. King would have wanted us to do anyways.”

Jessie Hammonds said it is important to remember King even if you do not have the day off from work.

“It’s a day off, but a day on,” Jessie Hammonds said. “It was easy to be overcome with emotion looking at everyone marching and the cars honking.”

Iowa City sixth grader Jood Abdelrahman attended the march with her mom and sister for the first time. She said it was fun to be in the march to celebrate how King fought for equality.

Abdelrahman’s mother and Iowa City resident Melissa Moreland said her daughters asked her if they could go to the march. She said as children of color, it is important for them to connect with history.

During the rally, eight kids in the Dream City Youth group performed a dance to celebrate King’s legacy.

Frederick Newell, Purpose Place Pastor and Executive Director of Dream City Youth, said the mission of the group, which has a total of 75 teens, is to inspire change through advocacy, art, wellness, and community connections.

“I have a dream that [King’s] dream will be accomplished because if those things are accomplished for his kids, that means it will be a better place for my kids,” Newell said. “I believe that we are living in a time where dreams do come alive and work hard at it and go after it.”

Local officials such as Coralville Mayor Meghann Foster, Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague, Johnson County Supervisors Royceann Porter, Rod Sullivan, and V Fixmer-Oraiz, Iowa City City Councilors Shawn Harmsen, Laura Bergus, and Andrew Dunn, Iowa City Mayor Pro Tem Megan Alter, and Iowa City schools board member Jayne Finch attended the rally.

Several elected officials representing surrounding areas joined the march including Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City, Rep. Elinor Levin, D-Iowa City, Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, and Rep. Adam Zabner, D-Iowa City.

“The cool thing is that I learn a lot every time. I learn something new. I love seeing the community coming together for a really important event,” Zabner said.

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