MLK Jr. holiday honors past and present

Published 4:36 pm Monday, January 19, 2009

Several hundred people observed the marking of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 80th birth anniversary with marching, singing, dancing and speaking.

Although the birthday of King, the late civil rights leaders slain in 1968, actually was on Jan. 15, Bainbridge and the nation observed MLK Jr. Day Monday.

The day began with a small parade from the Decatur County Courthouse on Water Street to MLK Jr. Drive. The parade featured local civic groups, the percussion section from the Bainbridge High School band and a marching band from West Gadsden, Fla., High School. Local government leaders spoke at an opening ceremony at the courthouse prior to the parade. The Potter Street Elementary School Honor Chorus also performed.

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At 11:30 a.m., approximately 300 to 400 people gathered in the gymnasium at Hutto Middle School on MLK Jr. Drive for a memorial service honoring King’s legacy. Interspersed between speeches from local dignitaries and clergymen were a capella performances from two local church choirs. The West Gadsden band performed again and Candace Howard rendered an interpretive dance to “Taking Chances” by Celine Dion.

Wells: ‘King’s dream has come true’

The featured speaker at Monday’s memorial service was the Rev. Kelvin D. Wells, pastor of Christ Tabernacle Church in Bainbridge.

Rev. Wells delivered an address titled “God’s Issues with Mankind” in which he discussed several problems he believes are keeping society from reaching its true potential. Those issues included violence and crime, juvenile delinquency and declining moral standards of America in general.

Rev. Wells offered several solutions, urging people to demand students to study, encouraging adults to become involved in their children’s schools and the call for citizens to hold their civic and religious leaders accountable for their character.

As other speakers alluded to on Monday, Rev. Wells cited Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States as a partial sign that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of racial equality was coming to pass. Quoting Dr. King, he said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now.”

While Wells, 33, was born after Dr. King’s death, he told The Post-Searchlight he interpreted the quote as illustrating that King’s “dream” included people of all races and backgrounds.

“[King] fought for everyone’s rights,” Wells said.

Conyers speaks, receives honor

Longtime Bainbridge City Councilman Luther Conyers Jr. was the grand marshal of Monday’s parade and both spoke and received recognition at the memorial service.

Wallace Sholar, a field representative for U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany), presented Conyers—joined by his wife, Gwendolyn—with a certificate of recognition, the text of which was to be entered into the official U.S. Congressional Record on Wednesday, Jan. 21.

Conyers also spoke about the significance of King’s legacy. He also said he looked forward to Obama’s leadership, which he said was a partial realization of King’s “I Have a Dream…” speech in Washington, D.C., in 1963, one of the high points of the American Civil Rights Movement.

“It’s a time to look back and thank God for the man whose vision led us here today,” Conyers said. “The greatest honor we can give to Dr. King is to recommit our lives to ‘The Dream’ and live without hate or prejudice.”

Conyers, who was an adult by the time King rose to prominence as a leader of the Civil Rights movement, told The Post-Searchlight he would remember King for his “tenacity, bravery, intelligence and his willingness to lead.”

Dr. Marvin Thomas, principal of Hutto Middle School, said King’s legacy greatly impacted leadership.

“Without education, we’d still be where we were,” Thomas said. “He inspired people to place greater focus on the value of an education.”