Some of the hundreds of people in Dayton’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day march on Monday have attended the annual event for so long that they’ve lost count of how many years.
But longtime participants say the march still feels as uplifting and important as ever, and it’s a fitting way to honor King’s legacy.
“I’m energized and my faith is increased in humanity and what we do in Montgomery County to bring about equal treatment of all people, racial justice and opportunity for everyone in our society,” said Carol Prewitt, 69, of Huber Heights.
Community members of all stripes and walks of life joined politicians, labor leaders, clergy and activists for the MLK memorial march, which is a one-mile walk from West Dayton to Sinclair College in downtown.
The march’s starting points and ending points have changed over the years and decades, but its purpose, meaning and popularity have endured, attendees said.
“It’s a day of serving and a day of helping people better understand one another,” said Prewitt, a U.S. Air Force veteran who has participated in the MLK march for nearly four decades.
The march promotes education and starting a dialogue about what can be done to improve the local community, Prewitt said.
Darrie Cooley, 55, of Trotwood said the march is about joining friends, family and a diverse group of community members to display unity.
His friend, Massandra Griffin, said, “It’s important for us to be out here to show our support for what (King) did for us.”
Griffin, 53, of Miamisburg said MLK holiday is a good time to remember to give back to the community. She said there’s too much division in this country, and the march is an encouraging show of solidarity.
Tina Mobley, 61, wasn’t able to attend the march last year, but she had participated in the event for nearly a decade before that.
Mobley said she gets choked up when talking about the enormous sacrifices King and other prominent figures made to try to give Black people and all Americans rights, freedom and liberty.
“I feel motivated and I feel rejuvenated once I do this march,” she said.
Mobley said MLK used non-violent, peaceful protests to fight for racial justice. She said marching continues that tradition.
“You don’t have to use a gun to get your point across,” she said. “Dr. Martin Luther King would want you to choose a better way.”
Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. said he thinks he has attended the march for about 45 years and it underscores that community members value diversity and different cultures and appreciate each other’s contributions.
“It’s a blessing,” he said.
Dayton has many good things going on, but there is still room for improvement, and working together and collaboration is the best way to make progress, Mims said.
“We can’t solve any of the challenges we have independently,” he said.