MLK memorial events, parade look to futurePublished 2:53am Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events Monday began with prayer and singing at the Decatur County Courthouse, then paraded down MLK Street to Hutto Middle School where a memorial service was held.
Those who spoke and performed at the service relayed a similar message to those in attendance — celebrate how far the nation has come in the civil rights realm, but realize there is work to be done.
“He would be so proud of us today if he could see us sitting here,” Speaker Joshua Bell, a municipal court judge in the area, said. “But he would also be disappointed with us.”
Bell told the crowd of nearly more than 100 at Hutto Middle School he saw one of Kings visions come to life earlier that morning when the Potter Street Elementary School students sang together — children of all races standing next to one another.
“But the problem is those little children grow up and they let the world get to them,” Bell noted. “They let the world start to talk to them about the friend they had when they were a kid and tell them why they should be afraid. And what happens then? We segregate ourselves.”
Bell said one example of segregation in the community is how churches are organized as white and black, “but we worship the same God and we read the same Bible,” Bell said.
He urged the community to begin a conversation about race — talking respectfully and in an open way about the challenges one another face and stereotypes that are present.
“If this country doesn’t choose to have a discussion right now about race then we are going to go backwards,” Bell said. “We are going to need to start talking to one another and start figuring out why we can’t stay together as we grow old and why we keep segregating ourselves.”
Other speakers followed the theme of the day, “A new vision. Think big, reach far … education — jobs — health care,” and spoke about the importance of education and empowerment.
Brock Washington, Decatur County NAACP President, spoke about the true freedoms that were once fought for by King are now being challenged with changes to civil rights legislation.
“(Civil Rights Bills) are being dismantled by those who don’t want certain segments of the population to enjoy the same freedoms as they do,” Washington said about controversial changes to voting laws. He encouraged the crowd to exercise their rights and register to vote.
Decatur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield said he believes King was a man who knew the value of education and knew how to pay it forward.
“I can tell you that the goal of the Decatur County School System in this community is truly education,” Rayfield said. “But it is also education in building the highest character and integrity in these students in this community we possibly can.”
After solo performances by Roger Harrison and praise dances, the crowd was encouraged to bring someone of another race to the event next year and start a conversation about race in their community.