Rain doesn’t deter Tacoma marchers

About 300 people marched in the rain Saturday along Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

In addition to umbrellas and the occasional sign, the marchers also carried a message of hope and support for strong families in Tacoma.

The event — the Thousand Man Family March & Festival — “was a request for the men of this community to show up,” particularly men of color, said Toney Montgomery, president of the Tacoma Ministerial Alliance.

“We are trying to raise strong families,” he said.

This was the fourth year for the march and festival, organized by the ministerial alliance.

The event also drew those who wanted to show support for the black community in Ferguson, Missouri, after a white police officer there shot an unarmed black teen this month.

When the marchers arrived in People’s Park on South Ninth Street, much of the drizzle had stopped. The crowd, now about 400 strong, bowed their heads and prayed for the husbands in the audience.

Montgomery said he was grateful for the police presence at the march. Several patrol cars escorted the group for the 14-block march across Tacoma’s Hilltop.

“When I was going down MLK and saw those red and blue lights, I thought it was a beautiful sight for the promotion of peace,” Montgomery told the crowd.

A strong education also relies on strong families and communities, Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent Carla Santorno said.

“You are all the first teachers” in a child’s life, she said. “Students that perform well have parents who care, who check in.”

One group gave away backpacks filled with school supplies, and another handed out $500 scholarships to school-age children, while speakers said education and jobs that pay well are the foundation of a strong family.

Strong communities include members who vote, Mayor Marilyn Strickland said.

“We have to vote,” she told the mostly black crowd. “People don’t expect us to turn out.”

Turnout for the event surpassed previous marches, despite the rain, said Michael Purter of the ministerial alliance. He said he wanted to encourage men to be positive role models in the lives of children around them.

Frank Boykin called the events in Ferguson a flashpoint that started conversations around the nation.

“There is something wrong,” he said, and communities are hurt. “We are not comfortable talking about ethnicity and race.”