It's not common to have flyers passed out in the streets of this neighborhood along Killingsworth, but there is a crowd is gathered and they want their message to be clear. It's the birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and over 150 people are marching to Alberta Park to speak out against the inequalities present in Portland Public Schools.
According to supporters of today's event, schools in North and Northeast Portland don't get enough qualified teachers. They gather at Martin Luther King Elementary on 7th and Alberta and march in the street down Killingsworth to Alberta Park.
Chants belted out, banners held high and proudly, the mood is lively as the marchers pass One Stop Records who fill the air with the moving sound of the famous King speech amplified outside their store.
"Today is an important day," shouts Ron Herndon through a microphone while standing in the back of a pickup parked on the sheltered basketball court where the march has come to an end. "It's especially important because our children are out here. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about equal opportunity being especially important for our children."
Herndon sees a direct correlation between Oregon being declared the hungriest state in the country and having the worst drop our rate.
"If you don't get an education, you aren't going to get good work and you're going to be hungry," he says. "There's enough money for new jail cells but they say there's not enough money to make sure every child has a book in school."
Supporters of the event include ministers, adults and community members of all colors. A young girl from Guatemala details how the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at her grade school didn't have a teacher who spoke Spanish. Many children dropped out of the program because they didn't know English well enough to be only instructed in English. In contrast, schools in the more affluent areas of Portland have ESL instructors that speak a wide range of languages.
Isha Campbell, a young woman now in her sophomore year in college, has had a difficult time catching up to her classmates. She feels that even though she was at the top of her graduating class at Jefferson High, she was ill-prepared to move on to college. She has tutors, attends study groups and says confidently, "I'm going to make it."
Parents in the community don't want this trend to continue. They have united to address the school board with their concerns. They feel that so far all they have received are "promises and lies", but the parents are mobilizing to build an even stronger coalition. Today's march and rally were just one aspect of the movement. On Monday, January 22nd at 6:30 PM, the group will attend the Portland Public Schools' Board Meeting.
"Enough is enough," cries Herndon. "These kids must be at the front of the school board's agenda. Until they are, there will be no more school board meetings!"
Herndon invites a young boy up to the mic to lead the group in a lively version of Happy Birthday, dedicated to Dr. King, whose commitment to fighting for equality is an inspiration to all those present.