‘Ebony’s March’ was a beautiful, thought-provoking experience

Published 9:33 am Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This past Saturday, I got the chance to experience a very unique and thought-provoking experience, when I attended and covered “Ebony’s March” in downtown Bainbridge.

I know that most people in Decatur County know the history behind this annual event, but for those who don’t, here’s a synopsis. Ebony Clarke was a 21-year-old woman who was shot to death outside her Broughton Street apartment in 2008. Clarke died on Aug. 10, 2008, after being caught in the line of fire of a man who was shooting at another man during a street fight. Clarke left behind an infant son, Ty, who is now 4 years old.

Clarke’s mother, Barbara Williford, not only adopted Ty, but also began this annual march and rally in Clarke’s memory. Saturday was the fourth annual march and rally, but the first time it was held on a weekend.

Email newsletter signup

However, what makes Ebony’s March unique is that it’s not only about remembering Ebony Clarke’s life, it’s also focused on making a stand against gang violence and drugs.

On Saturday, I wasn’t sure if the rain would cooperate, as it was starting to drizzle as the marchers lined up in front of the Bainbridge Housing Authority headquarters on Sims Street. But it seemed like the sky cleared up as soon as they began praying, with minister Leroy Sheddric asking the Lord to let their march “tug on the hearts” of those who might commit violence or drug-related crimes.

After all, the marchers made their way right down Broughton Street, the same road where Clarke was killed five years ago. It was wonderful to see them moving right through the heart of town, visibly chanting on one voice: “Taking our community back from drugs and gangs!”

While the march was inspiring, the rally — and its speakers and musicians — was even more thought-provoking. Willis Park came alive with a variety of talented ministers, ranging from a former gang member turned minister, to a group of elementary-school students from Cairo who performed a song and dance with a positive message.

One of the things that really impressed me about the rally was that each speaker brought a unique focus, and no two speakers’ messages were alike. The youthful minister Jimmy Thomas excitedly noted that “you have to stop running from God, and start running to God.” Minister Deloris Parker said that young men and women need to realize that their bodies are “temples of God,” and they destroy those temples through drug abuse. And Evangelist Shauntray Sheddric pointed out that so many crimes could be averted just by loving our neighbor, regardless of the color of their skin.

I truly enjoyed getting the chance to hear these inspiring messages, and appreciate the hard work that Williford and her volunteers did to make the event happen again this year. I can’t even imagine how hard it is to lose a child, but then still find a way to use that horrible tragedy for a good purpose.

“Sometimes we don’t know why bad things happen,” she said at the rally Saturday. “But God has a way of using all things for good.”

God bless Barbara Williford. If more people like her truly cared about their communities, this would be a much better world.

Justin Schuver is the managing editor of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at justin.schuver@thepostsearchlight.com.