The Last Word: Successful Immigrant Walks to Honor Dr. King
Everyone who is participating in the MLK Day March in Erie probably had different reasons for wanting to come out on this cold day to honor Dr. King. I met with one man who has many reasons. He says he wouldn't be anyplace else but right here.
Zakaria Sharif escaped the Civil War in Somalia in 1987 with his parents and siblings when he was three years old. They spent the next five years in a refugee camp in Kenya before immigrating to Erie. Zakaria never heard of Dr. Martin Luther King while at the camp.
"I didn't ever attend school there. I did not attend any school there. I did not know about Martin Luther King until I arrived here,” says Zakaria.
Zakaria is proud to say he is a product of Erie's Public Schools. He recalls his teachers talking about Dr. King.
"They would talk about Black history and Martin Luther King was one of the people they mentioned,” recalls Zakaria. “One of the things that really jumped out is the 'I Have a Dream' speech.
That speech, in 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, spelled out the injustices taking place in this country at the time. It was a country where some schools were segregated and unequal. Decades later, Zakaria excelled in Erie's Public Schools and is a graduate of Penn State, attending the Behrend and University Park campuses.
Doctor King talked about Black people in Mississippi not able to vote and Black people in New York not having anything for which to vote. Last year, Zakaria was elected to the Erie School Board. Zakaria, an immigrant and refugee from Somalia, is living the dream Dr. King spoke about. Some call it the American Dream. It also can be called the King Dream.
"So I do credit Dr. King for what he stood for. Things that he fought for and also all the other civil rights leaders as well,” says Zakaria.
So, why is Zakaria Sharif marching in downtown Erie on this cold MLK Day? He just wants to say thanks.
"Giving thanks. You should always give back thanks and appreciate what people have done. That's the least we can do,” he says.
Zakaria was joined at the march today by his wife and five children. He says his family loves Erie and would not live anyplace else. Zacaria is employed at the Erie County Health Department.