BALTIMORE — The cars started lining up before 10 o’clock on a blustery morning — just a handful at first, then a few dozen more. Soon nearly 100 vehicles filled the parking lot of St. Matthew Catholic Church.
Passengers popped out, exchanged markers, and scrawled messages in bold colors on their vehicles: "Black Lives Matter," "I Have a Dream ..." "Say Their Names."
“We’re going to sow the seeds of love so that we can reap the harvest of Dr. King’s dream!” Jordan Casper, a young African American DJ, thundered into a microphone. “Now everyone honk as you drive off!”
With that, the first-ever Martin Luther King Jr. Day Black Lives Matter car caravan across Baltimore was underway.
Casper, 26, a rap musician and producer from Harford County, is a leading member and organizer of the Black Lives Matter Interfaith Coalition, an activist group whose members have been staging regular social justice demonstrations in the Baltimore area since last summer.
Sponsored by more than 30 churches, synagogues and social and racial justice nonprofits, the organization planned the procession as a celebration Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the 36th time the nation has celebrated the occasion as a federal holiday.
The event, one of dozens held in honor of the legendary civil rights leader in the area Monday, began as Casper addressed the parking lot full of drivers and passengers, introducing the themes of the day.
Democratic Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos followed with brief remarks, as did Martina Hazelton, the co-founder of the Lifer Family Support Network, a group that advocates for the humane treatment of people serving long sentences in Maryland prisons.
The vehicles headed out in single file, horns honking and warning lights flashing, following a previously mapped, 10-mile route through Northeast Baltimore, East Baltimore, North Baltimore and back to the church on Loch Raven Boulevard for closing remarks and a prayer by another co-founder of the council, Baltimore entrepreneur KeSean Johnson.
“We cannot afford to move at a snail’s pace to find liberty and justice for all,” said Johnson, who is Black and a member of the Bolton Street Synagogue, a sponsoring congregation. “Now more than ever we should appreciate life and ensure that every American has the opportunity to enjoy theirs as well.”