COLUMBIA — Participants in the Martin Luther King Memorial Association’s 36th annual commemorative event agreed Monday night that it’s up to younger generations to take on King’s dream.
Columbia residents met to remember the life, ideals and teachings of King with a candlelight march from Frederick Douglass High School to the historic Second Baptist Church, where a sermon was given.
Marchers greeted one another before gathering for a short memorial prayer, led by James Gray, who has attended the event for more than 30 years.
“Dr. King had a dream years ago, and we’re at the point where we’re trying to live it. We need to make his dream a reality,” Gray said.
Keeping his memory alive for today’s youth has not always been easy in a fast-paced world.
He said some younger people don’t realize the importance the holiday has to older generations.
Harrisburg High School canceled the Martin Luther King holiday this year because students had missed too many days because of snow. “We need to start educating young folks.” Gray continued, “We’ll get there.”
Bill Thompson has been participating in the march and memorial service for nearly 27 years. He is the co-director of the Martin Luther King Memorial Association and helped organize Monday night’s event.
Thompson stressed the importance of involving young people in King’s legacy. “They don’t understand a lot of the things that went on.” Thompson said of today’s youth, “It’s up to them to carry the banner once we are gone.”
Phyllis Chase, superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, also said she believes in the significance of including young people. “It’s important to be an example to our young people to make sure that they understand the history that was laid out before them,” Chase said.
She encourages youth to “Remember the message, and the message is about respect, love and peace.”
Another issue at the forefront of the event was racial equality.
Kelley Lucero, who has been attending the MLK march and service on and off for nearly 10 years, held a sign that read, “Racism is Learned, Teach Peace”. Lucero said there is “still an underlying current (of racism). It’s still hidden. It doesn’t mean it’s gone.”
Participant Tracy Edwards had similar feelings about racism in today’s society.
“I believe in the struggle. We’re not there yet, but we’re going to get there, day by day,” Edwards said.
The event ended with a church ceremony accented with lively music celebrating King’s legacy. About 200 community members came together to recognize the accomplishments that have been made since King’s death.
“Dr. King means something to all races,” Edwards said. “Everything we do now is tied to him.”