Community holds annual MLK Day parade and festivities

Published 4:39 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2024

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Members of the community gathered at the Decatur County courthouse steps early Monday morning for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day events.

The day’s festivities began with a welcome from Jeanette Grimsley with the Decatur County School System. Lora Ann Akins gave a musical performance, while Reverend Willie Smiley delivered prayer and scripture from Psalms 89.

Next, City Councilman Kregg Close took to the podium to greet the crowd. “I think we can all attest that there’s a lot of progress that you are seeing around our beautiful city,” he said. “I’m just so proud of what is going on with the city of Bainbridge, and where we’re headed and moving forward.” He continued, recounting an interview from James Baldwin: “He was asked a question, ‘What was it like to be a black person in that time?’… He, kinda paraphrasing, said it was somewhat like being under a state of rage and anger all the time, because of what was going on during that time.” He continued, “But when we think about Dr. Martin Luther King, he was going through at that same particular time, but I’m so glad that he did not choose anger.”

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Sheriff Wiley Griffin spoke after Close. “Dr. King refused to allow prison, violence or the threat of death, sway his end mission,” he said. “Instead, he stood beside his goal of achieving rights, all through non-violent protests. Dr. King’s leadership contributed to the overall success of the mid-1900s, and continues to impact civil rights movements in the present… Dr. King’s generation did their part, now it’s time to do ours.”

Following the initial speeches at the courthouse, the official MLK Parade began, led by Sheriff Griffin, the BHS Band’s percussion section, and the parade’s grand Marshall, Marlon Breedlove.

The parade’s end destination was Hutto Elementary School, but made a brief stop at Pilgrim’s Rest MB Church. Breedlove recounted his history growing up in Bainbridge. “I look back and I think about how time has passed, and where I am standing today, and it’s all because of our Almighty God,” he said. “We don’t have any other reason that we can give for being here today, other than our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

After Breedlove spoke, City Councilman Keenan Adams delivered a prayer, and recited a portion of a sermon from S.M. Lockridge, specifically the “That’s My King!” sermon. Leann Brown also performed a musical solo.

After the midway stop, the parade made its way to Hutto Elementary School for the main MLK Day celebration. Members of the local government including County Commissioner Pete Stephens and Superintendent Dr. Boyd English spoke at the event. The main speaker of the day was Elder Ricky Monroe Sr., from Mt. Sinai Apostolic Church in Thomasville.

“If there’s going to be any cultural change, if there’s going to be any change in our communities, if there’s going to be any change in our families, if there’s going to be any change in us, our mind needs to be transformed,” Monroe said. “In order for us to continue the legacy, the foundation of which was laid by Dr. Martin Luther kIng and so many others, that is they understood in order for change to happen, in order for change to be effective, I cannot keep doing the things I used to do, and expect a different result.” He continued, “I have to learn that if, I am going to do better, if I am going to make a positive impact on the community, I need to, first of all, consult Him that created me. I need to look inward before I start looking outward.”

Following Monroe’s speech, Paul Fryer, field representative for Congressman Sanford Bishop, took to the podium, presenting awards and acknowledgements to several attendees, including Marlon Breedlove, Charles Stafford, and Mrs. Liz Tomlin. Bishop Kelvin Wells came forward after fryer, presenting the winners of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest. These winners included Adesuwa Oziegbe, Walker Elrod, La’Reina Wilson, and Kenyon Benton.

The ceremony concluded with Elder Monroe giving the benediction and grace, and refreshments were served in the Hutto lunchroom afterwards.