'Do Right Thing': March Keeps King's Dream Alive
Martin Luther King Jr. March
Over 100 Moore County residents celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. during a march down Broad Street and up Pennsylvania Avenue Jan. 17.
Moore County residents marched Monday with hopes of advancing civil rights as they celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
Traces of snow remained as residents gathered at the corner of South East Broad Street and New York Avenue in downtown Southern Pines for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march.
The march, organized by the West Southern Pines Civic Club, was one of several local events celebrating the life and legacy of the slain civil rights leader.
Participants from local churches, businesses and the community marched down Broad Street and up Pennsylvania Avenue to Southern Pines Primary School, where a program was held at noon in the school's auditorium.
Marchers held signs, smiling and waving to onlookers on the sidewalks along the route. Others chanted, "Forward ever, backward never," a mantra that has long been a part of the black community since the days of the civil rights era.
James Douglas Jr., a native of Southern Pines, said he has been participating in the march for as long as he can remember. Sporting a Martin Luther King T-shirt over layers of warm clothes, Douglas said he marches every year in remembrance of his ancestors' struggle for equal rights.
"My grandparents and my great-grandparents experienced it," he said. "It's history. [This march lets] the younger generations know what our ancestors had to go through so that we could be here and have equal opportunities. If it wasn't for Dr. Martin Luther King, who knows?"
Geneva Hodges said she hoped to pass on the legacy of the civil rights era by marching with her granddaughter, 8-year-old Jania Hodges.
Hodges said her granddaughter decided to march when they were talking about King's famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," written in 1963 to urge other pastors to join the civil rights movement.
Hodges said her granddaughter was especially moved by King's lament over having to explain to his daughter why she could not go to a public amusement park, which was open to only white children, and his poignant observation of the "the ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky."
"She came to me crying and said, 'Grandmother, I want to walk to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday,'" Hodges said. "That meant a lot to me as a grandparent. It's an honor for me to walk with her today and to let her be aware of what's going on."
Jania Hodges said she wants to continue marching each year to honor King's legacy.
"He got us freedom by doing a lot of speeches and inspiring a lot of people," she said.
After the march, participants and other residents attended a program called "Youth Speak Out! - Some Killers of the Martin Luther King Jr. Dream," at Southern Pines Primary School
The program, sponsored by the Moore County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, celebrated King's legacy and focused on how the black community can keep King's dream alive.
Students from local schools read statements on why Marin Luther King would be proud of them if he could meet them today.
Bradley Haskill, a student at Southern Pines Primary, said King would be proud of him because he is diligent in his schoolwork and he also tries to live by King's example of tolerance.
"I think Martin Luther King Jr. would also be proud of me because of the way I treat other people, even people who are different from me," he said. "All people do not look alike, but all people are children of God and should be treated with respect and dignity."
Shamonique Campbell said she thought King would be proud to know that she tries to solve her problems in a peaceful manner.
Kei'shjuana Dowd, a student from STARS charter school, read a poem she had written to honor King.
"Being a leader means standing up for what you and your followers believe in," she said. "Being a voice means standing up for your opinion on fact even if others say it's not right.
"Being a good person is believing in the right thing or having faith in the right thing."
Young people also gave orations presenting examples of detriments in the community that can "kill the dream" of Martin Luther King - immorality, fear, false values, faithlessness, disunity and blame.
After the orations, members from the community led a group discussion on how the black community can work to keep King's dream alive and move forward.
"To follow the dream of Martin Luther King, we must always strive to do the right thing," James Moore said during the discussion.
Oliver Hines led a discussion on what a member of a minority should do when he or she encounters racism.
Most members of the audience raised their hands in agreement when Hines asked if anyone still encounters racism in Moore County.
One audience member said people should confront racism respectfully and fearlessly by treating other individuals with respect and having the courage to stand up for what is right.
Hines said that racism stems from a lack of understanding that develops from group separation.
He said that though African-Americans have seen significant progress over the last 50 years, including the election of the nation's first black president, there is still more progress to be made in addressing race relations in the U.S.
"[This country is] pretty old to be in the condition that we're in," Hines said. "There's more work to be done than the youngest person in this room will ever see."
Hines added that each person sitting in the auditorium should help generate more participation in events like the MLK march and the program.
Participation in both events has been down in recent years.
"Bring somebody," he said. "Let's let the walls have to lean on us instead of us leaning on the walls."
Contact Hannah Sharpe at email@example.com.
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