Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 88 years old on Monday, Jan. 16; however, in 1968 he was killed by an assassin. In response to this tragedy a holiday was established to celebrate King’s birthday.
To celebrate the holiday, the Clarksville branch of the NAACP holds a commemorative march every year. The march represents the tactic of nonviolent resistance to push for societal change.
“We hold this march to honor the legacy of King and to show that the community is diverse,” Willy Freeman said. “We want to show that we have kept the dream alive by having a diverse gathering that gets bigger every year.”
The day of remembrance takes place on the third Monday of January and its purpose is to reflect on King’s life and his accomplishments. The African-American community also uses the holiday has an opportunity to teach young people what was accomplished by the civil rights movement.
“We go beyond just Monday to educate the community as we use the entire weekend to remember the struggle that so many undertook to help us have a better life today,” David Davenport, APSU’s Chief Diversity Officer said. “It is important to teach the children in particular so they know what life was like back then.”
Before the march began, there was a community gathering at Burt Elementary School where the children were separated by age to give them lessons on the civil rights movement. Jimmie Garland, who is the president of the Clarksville branch of the NAACP, hosted the discussion for the adults in the gymnasium. Three community members were invited to speak about current issues facing the African-American community.
“This holiday is so important so our history does not become a mystery,” Minister Rita Ewing said. “We want to use King’s legacy to inform the people so we can overcome ignorance has a society.”
The march began at noon at Burt Elementary School and went down Eighth street. The first destination was outside city hall. There a prayer was held and Mayor Kim McMillan addressed the crowd with a brief speech.
From there the march continued through downtown until they reached the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. There was another brief speech before the march continued back to the Burt Elementary School.
“I believe the lesson younger people should learn from King’s legacy is to not see skin color, and treat everyone with respect,” junior health and human performance major Chloe Woods said.
Junior graphic design Arnika Carter added to Woods’ comment and said, “Another lesson of King’s we should utilize is peaceful resistance, because if your oppressors see you flinch, they have won.”