Community gathers to celebrate life of KingPublished 4:19pm Tuesday, January 21, 2014
By Sheryl Hamilton
For the FCT
Franklin County residents witnessed the 2014 Memorial March as many celebrated the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday on Monday.
It was a very pleasant day, warm and sunny, as more than 500 people of diversity gathered to honor the legacy of such a great man who struggled for equal justice in America.
The road that Dr. King traveled was not an easy one. Black people could not vote. They could not drink from the same water fountain or use the same restrooms as white people. Black children could not go to the same schools that white children attended. But Dr. King helped to end these injustices and win many rights that all Americans now enjoy.
After many participants joined in the Memorial March from the Chucky Mullins Center to the Franklin County Courthouse for a prayer and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, the group marched back to the Chucky Mullins Center for the scheduled program.
Russellville Mayor David Grissom brought greetings on behalf of himself and the Russellville City Council by welcoming everyone to the Martin Luther King Day Program held at the Chucky Mullins Center.
“Dr. King’s influence will last forever,” Grissom said. “He had more influence and effect on race relations than any other person in this country.”
Since the program was a joint event sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee from Franklin Colbert and Lauderdale counties, there were many other government officials from surrounding cities and counties who attended the program.
One of the highlights of the program was the children who assembled to give the Pledge of Allegiance. Dr. King dreamed of all children coming together and sharing together for a common cause.
The Hispanic community shared in great numbers to make the celebration a success. Evelynn Garcia, a student at Russellville High School, was one of the youth speakers.
“Do we honor the deeds or the achievements of Dr. King?” Garcia asked.
“At school I could see African Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanics all together. Dr. King never gave up but was an inspiration to all. The time is now to vote for immigration, human rights, and voters rights.”
Faya Rose Toure (Rose Sanders) of Selma was the keynote speaker and she encouraged each person in attendance, young and old, to make a difference.
“We have new challenges of drugs and violence that need to be addressed,” Toure said.
“This generation of young people should step forth and be like Dr. King; lead in school, church, family, and community projects.
“An attack is being made on immigration, women, health, education and more. Throughout history our leaders have heeded the call with others and some by themselves.
“Dr. King and the Foot Soldiers made a difference.”
Toure encouraged the audience to always have the obligation and the will to make a difference. As organizer of the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee, Toure invited everyone in the area to come to the Selma Bridge Crossing events from March 6-10.
Brian McGuire, graduate of Russellville High School, was the second youth speaker who addressed the crowd.
“Dr. King was my role model on how to be a man,” McGuire said. “He was patient, humble and had perseverance.”
McGuire focused on the contents of Dr. King’s character and noted that he used the Bible on his civil rights journey. He quoted Luke 6:29, which states, “If anyone hits you on one cheek, let him hit the other one too.”
Ella West and Rev. B.J. Bonner chaired and organized the concert that was held at College Avenue-First Baptist Church. West said that music breaks down all barriers.
The concert was a great time for all people to come together. West remembered Bradford Drug Store and the Frosty Inn having a side door when she was young. Later in her senior year of high school, she was able to eat a burger with her best friend inside the store and no one disturbed them.
Don Willingham, Franklin County MLK Chairperson, said he was pleased with how all the committees had worked together to make the day a success.
He said he received community support from local government officials and it was a team effort.
“Dr. King had a lot of faith in God,” Willingham said.
“His followers had to do a lot of soul searching and sacrifices to embrace the Civil Rights Movement.”
As the Immediate Past President of the MLK Committee, Rev. C.D. Hamilton walked and talked with Dr. King while he was attending Selma University in Selma.
Rev. Hamilton’s job was to keep the young blacks together after the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee had been organized.
“I remembered that Dr. King was a very gentle man,” said Hamilton, who continues one of Dr. King’s traits by trying to remain non-violent.
Although Hamilton did not attend this year’s march, he reflected on all the marches he participated in during the 1964 Civil Rights Movement in Selma.
Yearly, he returns to the re-enactment of Bloody Sunday and crosses the Edmund Pettus Bridge with hundreds of other people.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee – Northwest AL Chapter was organized in 1989. and Rev. Charlie Burgess serves as the president.
Those who wish to learn more about the life of Dr. King can visit the MLK display located at the Russellville Public Library.