Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s wife, once wrote about the annual commemoration of her husband's life and said, “The holiday must be substantive as well as symbolic. It must be more than a day of celebration ... Let this holiday be a day of reflection, a day of teaching non-violent philosophy and strategy, a day of getting involved in nonviolent action for social and economic progress.”
With the words of Dr. King’s wife resonating across the country, people from all walks of life came together on Monday, Jan. 16 to celebrate the life and legacy of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Citizens of Franklin honored King’s memory through an annual Peace March up Town Hill, followed by prayer, song, and a reflection on the inspirational testimony the Baptist preacher gave throughout his lifetime.
Students and teachers from the Lyndon B. Johnson Job Corps were joined with a few members of the community to complete the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day peace march. The march began at the Big Bear Shelter on the Greenway and ended at Town Square for a program of inspirational music and readings from some of King’s speeches including his “I have a Dream” and “Steps to Non-Violent Social Change,” read by Hope and Elijah Moliere.
A proponent of civil disobedience and non-violent resistance, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35, which he was awarded for his work in the struggle to end racial discrimination, but King also spoke out for labor and against the Vietnam War before his assassination in 1968. Although he was never elected to office, the Baptist preacher is one of the most wellknown, influential leaders in American history.
The frigid temperatures might be one of the reasons why this year’s MLK Day event was poorly attended. Aside from the students and teachers from LBJ Job Corps who braved the cold to honor Dr. King, attendance was dismal. Mayor Collins once again attended the event and made remarks about his experience watching the evolution of racial tolerance within Macon County. “I am at the age where I have seen racial relations change and grow,” said Collins. “I remember when the Job Corps first came to Macon County, they had to fight to be here. It is always work. Racial relations is hard work and it is not going to end in our lifetime, all we can do is what we can while we are here.”
Alderman Bob Scott and Town Planner Mike Grubermann also attended Monday’s ceremony in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Although the Peace March was one of the few celebrations held in Macon County, no other Town or County officials were present.
Members of the crowd were randomly asked to read 14 quotes that were selected to be placed on the Inscription Wall at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC. The quotes featured on the wall were selected to stress four primary messages that King often focused on in his sermons and speeches: Justice, Democracy, Hope, and Love.
Justin Conley of Franklin read from a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr in Atlanta, Ga. on Dec. 24, 1967:
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”
Synethia Owens read from a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 in his speech entitled “Strength to Love:”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
The program concluded with what has become a MLK Day tradition with Mozart Moliere reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.