Thousands marched, chanted and sang messages of unity and peace through downtown Dayton Monday in memory of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
“I’m out here today to represent what my ancestors went through. All the things going on with the president elect, it’s really important that young African American people are out here and know what we’re marching for, which is our rights our freedom our ability to do things that our ancestors weren’t able to do,” said Trinity Brown, who marched with the Al-Ka-Pals, a youth group sponsored by the Beta Eta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
“It’s basically like we’re marching for our rights. He fought so hard for us to do what we’re basically doing now. We’re grateful to be walking,” said Jayla Alexander, another member of the group.
Elected officials including U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley spoke at the Dayton Convention Center where the march ended.
“Today we are still standing. Standing on the works and victories of those who began this civil rights struggle before us. Standing with each other to continue the work towards a fair just and equitable nation, where everyone has a fair chance. Standing for those that are still disenfranchised, who are still waiting for that solid foundation from which to grow, who are still held back by lack. We are still standing as proof that Dr. King’s goals are alive and active and becoming a reality in Dayton and in Montgomery County,” Whaley said.
Many who marched said the vitriol of the presidential election and current discussions of race in the political sphere are on their mind — including objections to Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general over his past record on civil rights and a weekend verbal skirmish between the president-elect and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a protege of King’s.
“I think it’s even more important that we all come together just as one, no matter your color,” Latoya Gilmer, of Dayton said.
Among the signs in the crowd were calls for justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford, both killed by Ohio police officers in 2014.
Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said in his address to the crowd that his deputies are going to be increasing efforts to get out in the community in 2017.
“It’s about the community coming together,” Plummer said while marching. “We just have to be neighbors. There’s a lot of love, a lot of passion out here.”
Plummer is also the chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party and said he was glad to see politicians and party activists from both sides marching together.
“With the craziness with the political climate, it’s very important that we all sit down and we discuss and work our problems out civilly,” Plummer said.
Barbara Cross, a survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 spoke at the Centerville-Washington Diversity Council’s MLK Day breakfast Monday.
Her father was the pastor there and she remembers that day’s lesson at Sunday school was about forgiveness. “If someone does something to you, you don’t retaliate or fight back. You use the type of love that Dr. King talked about, a brotherly type love,” she said.
They had no idea that hours later they’d have to draw on that lesson, Cross said.
Now she passes on King’s message of nonviolence by speaking about her experience across the nation. She always reads, “May men learn to replace bitterness and violence with love, with love, with love, with love.” Four times for the four lives lost that day in her father’s church.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and events are held in his honor each year around that date. The federal holiday marking his birthday is always held on the third Monday in January. King would have turned 87 this month.
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