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Leaders celebrate 25th anniversary of MLK human rights panel

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SALT LAKE CITY — Burundi and taiko drummers filled the rotunda of the state Capitol with reverberating rhythms Thursday as civic and elected leaders gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Commission for Human Rights.

Speakers formally recognized past successes and called for continued efforts to improve human rights all over the state.

Then-Gov. Norm Bangerter officially created the commission by executive order on July 1, 1991, to organize the recognition of the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, according to Forrest Crawford, founding member and inaugural chairman of the commission.

Crawford said Bangerter told him at the time, "I want you to be the face of Utah's humanity."

The commission was also charged with fostering relationships with government, faith-based communities and business communities to promote equality and dignity for all in Utah, Crawford said.

Other addresses from Gov. Gary Herbert, keynote speaker Rev. Brandee Jasmine Mimitzraiem of the Embry Chapel AME Church in Ogden, and others were tied together with the running thread of King's 1968 speech "The Drum Major Instinct."

The Rev. Mimitzraiem called on all to continue to remain dissatisfied with the status quo until no one is "dehumanized by differences" and encouraged continued social media activism as a new means of carrying on King's legacy.

"This new movement is indebted to the dream we are here to celebrate today," she said. "We are keeping Rev. King's dream alive with #wearethedrummajors."

She said action in conjunction with "hashtag activism" is a must for societal change.

"Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high pressure of creeds and anemia of deeds," the Rev. Mimitzraiem said, quoting King.

Herbert opened his address with a wish that people better understand the "fatherhood of God" so that people can better understand "the brotherhood of man."

Herbert said laws can only do so much, and the culmination of civic and governmental efforts is changing individual attitudes.

"Laws can direct us. But we need to be the change in ourselves we want to see in others," Herbert said.

Chris Larson is a BYU news media major interning with Deseret News. Contact him at


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